This column is another one in a long line of columns about corrupt politicians who abused their positions of public trust to line their own pockets - I mean, geez, how many more of those stories can I or others write?
Frankly, its like finding a cockroach in your kitchen. There are no rogue roaches. You find one, you just know that there's a nest of thousands of them behind the wall. The more you swat and stomp, the more they come out of the woodwork. Turn on the lights, they run for the cracks. Turn off the lights, they come out to play.
This story isn't uplifting or optimistic. It's just telling it like it is.
In December 2010, former New York State Senator Vincent L. Leibell, III pled guilty to obstructing the investigation into whether he maintained a corrupt relationship with a contractor who was building him a new home. Leibell was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Yawn.
What is a bit interesting about Leibell's case is the collateral damage aspect of this corruption case - he dragged down a colleague. All of which shows that misplaced loyalty can land you in jail.
Raymond Maguire began working for Senator Leibell in 2003, serving as his Chief of Staff from 2005 until December 2010, when Senator Leibell resigned amidst charges of official corruption. While in office, Leibell sponsored the award of millions of dollars in New York State member item grants to a not-for-profit organization ("the NFP") that funded and developed senior housing in Putnam County, New York. Right off the bat, a volatile mix: a politician and millions of dollars subject to that politician's discretion.
All of which leads us to the high-minded sounding NFP, which was to fund and develop senior housing. Admirable. Okay, so what's the big deal that Leibell sponsored the awarded of millions to this NFP? Lemme see - oh, yeah, I got it - the NFP was controlled, in part, by Senator Leibell and administered, in part, by Maguire. How about we call that "cozy?"
Next, enter the contractors. What kind of contractors you ask? Oh, the type that are looking to get paid to build all of those senior housing units that were funded and developed by Leibell's NFP, which, in turn, got State grants, which, in turn, came out of the taxpayers' pockets. A whole lotta public money for public purposes - or so that was supposed to be the goal.
Among those eager-beaver contractors was one that we're gonna name the "Favored Contractor." How does one become elevated to "Favored" status among the herd of plain-old contractors? Let me explain.
From 2004 to 2009, Leibell was having a 6,000 square foot, $1.7 million house in Putnam County built. A 6,000 square foot house for a lowly elected state official? Hey, God bless America! A $1.7 million price tag? Of course, would you expect an august state senator to live in anything less than opulence?
Okay, so, circling back to poor old Chief of Staff Maguire, it seems that he was quite the multi-tasker. In addition to his demanding schedule on behalf of his State Senator boss, Maguire somehow managed to double as Leibell's General Contractor on his palatial house construction. Now here's an amazing coincidence: Many of the contractors hired by the NFP for the county housing project just managed, somehow, to also become contractors on Leibell's house construction project. How lucky for General Contractor Maguire - you know, not having to memorize a lot of new names and faces. He was able to oversee a lot of familiar faces at Leibell's home construction site. That's not a conflict - no, not at all, how about we just call it a "convenience."
One hustling contractor apparently stood out from the pack. Coincidentally, during the time when this contractor was doing work on Leibell's home - at amazingly, deeply discounted rates - this same contractor miraculously got millions of dollars worth of contracts on the NFP's county projects. So, it should come as no surprise to you that this one contractor became known as the "Favored Contractor." Between 2008 and 2009,the Favored Contractor provided about $50,000 worth of construction services to Leibell for which only some $5,000 was actually paid. How can I get such a deal? Oh, yeah, right, run for office and get the right to award millions in contracts.
By April 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service were investigating Senator Leibell and his house. During this time, we even had a federal grand jury sitting in White Plains, New York listening to testimony about the home construction and the way-below-market bids by the contractors - the same contractors who were also getting construction contracts from the NFP. Of course, how could all these inquiring minds not also not come a knockin' on the Favored Contractor's door with oodles of questions - which, they did.
As word got out about the FBI, the IRS, and the Grand Jury, Maguire directed the Favored Contractor to "clean up the paper." Such a nice expression. And by cleaning up the paper, Maguire meant for the Favored Contractor to create phony, backdated invoices to make it appear that Senator Leibell had paid the full value of the services rendered. As if that proposed cover-up weren't bad enough, Maguire also instructed the Favored Contractor to falsely tell the federal investigators that there wasn't actually an underpayment but a "delayed" payment by Leibell.
Yeah, that's the ticket! Maguire came up with the clever ruse of pretending that Leibell had agreed to a "payment plan," and, I'm guessing, that $5,000 payment wasn't really, really all that the good senator intended to pay but, rather, was simply his first good-faith installment. After all, the guy's building a $1.7 million home on layaway, right?
Not willing to leave good enough (or bad enough, as it were) alone, Maguire came up with one more flourish. As Maguire so bluntly put it, he told the Favored Contractor to take the scheme to obstruct the pending grand jury investigation "to the grave." Ah, the big Shhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!
On September 15, 2011, Maguire pled guilty to a one-count federal Information charging him with obstructing the federal grand jury investigating Leibell's relationship with the contractor. On December 16, 2011, Maguire, 47, was sentenced in federal court in White Plains, New York, to four months in prison , four months of home confinement , and one year of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that "Raymond Maguire was a corrupt staffer for a corrupt politician. Elected officials and other public employees who exploit their positions for personal gain violate the public trust and will be held to account for their crimes."
Okay, Preet, great job landing this crook. Not so great recently with your prosecutions of Boyland and Seabrook but you and your team seem to have gotten a second wind. Good for you. Anyway, time to get back to work. You know that Maguire wasn't a rogue roach. Lots more of these hacks infesting the dark spaces hidden from the public's view.