Former Queens District Leader and City Council Candidate Found Guilty of Obstruction of Justice
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that attorney ALBERT BALDEO, a former Queens District Leader, was found guilty today in federal court of tampering with witnesses during the investigation of his alleged campaign fraud by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). BALDEO was convicted of seven counts of obstruction of justice in Manhattan federal court after a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty.
U.S. Attorney Bharara stated: “The fact that Albert Baldeo lost his election does not excuse his corrupt conduct. With today’s verdict of guilty, an impartial federal jury has found that Baldeo lied and instructed others to lie to law enforcement agents investigating the source of his campaign contributions, and threatened and intimidated others in order to conceal the truth. These practices have no place in our politics or our justice system, and there should be no doubt that this Office will prosecute such conduct while it continues to vigorously investigate and prosecute political corruption in New York City and New York State.”
According to the Complaint, Indictment, and Superseding Indictment and evidence presented at trial:
In the fall of 2010, BALDEO, then a Queens District Leader of a political party and attorney, participated in a scheme to defraud New York City that involved the funneling of multiple illegal campaign contributions to his ultimately unsuccessful campaign for City Council. On various occasions, BALDEO, and in at least one instance one of BALDEO’s employees, provided money orders or cash to individuals to contribute to the campaign in their own names, even though BALDEO supplied the funds and these individuals did not contribute any of their own money or reimburse him for these donations.
As part of this scheme, BALDEO gave each such donor, commonly referred to as a “straw donor,” a campaign contribution card in which he or she wrote his or her name, address, employment information, and the amount of money purportedly donated to the BALDEO campaign. BALDEO instructed the straw donors to sign the contribution cards falsely affirming that the contribution was being made from their personal funds and was not being reimbursed in any manner. The New York City Campaign Finance Board (“CFB”) relied upon the information contained in these fraudulent contribution forms, among other things, in order to determine whether to release public matching campaign funds to BALDEO’s 2010 campaign. Moreover, as part of this scheme, BALDEO instructed several of these straw donors to sign affidavits, at least one of which was actually provided to the CFB, that also falsely asserted that these straw donors’ contributions were made using their own funds.
After learning of the FBI’s investigation of this matter, BALDEO obstructed the investigation by repeatedly instructing certain straw donors to provide false information to, or not cooperate with, the FBI agents who were investigating contributions to his campaign.
Moreover, in response to BALDEO learning that one straw donor was going to refuse to lie as instructed by BALDEO: (1) a threatening letter was faxed from BALDEO’s office to the office of this straw donor’s attorney; (2) a co-conspirator of BALDEO’s not charged in this matter made false allegations to the New York City Administration for Children’s Services that this straw donor was abusing his grandchild; and (3) BALDEO and the same co-conspirator made at least one complaint each to the New York City Department of Buildings about properties owned by this straw donor or his wife.
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BALDEO, 54, of Richmond Hill, New York, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, and six counts of obstruction of justice, each relating to a separate instance of witness tampering. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. BALDEO was acquitted of three fraud-related counts relating to approximately $15,000 in claims for city matching funds from the CFB which were never awarded. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. BALDEO is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Crotty on December 16, 2014, at 11:00 a.m.
United States Attorney Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and expressed his appreciation for the assistance of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, and the New York City Department of Buildings in the investigation and prosecution of this matter.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal and Martin S. Bell are in charge of the prosecution.