Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Racino Scandal Rises Again

Paterson admits he OK’d 'tainted' casino firm to help then-state Senate Majority Leader John Sampson

  • Last Updated: 5:59 AM, January 10, 2013
  • Posted: 1:57 AM, January 10, 2013
  • LINK
Never mind what was best for taxpayers — former Gov. David Paterson admitted yesterday that he signed off on a deal to award the Aqueduct racino contract to a “tainted” bidder in 2009 to help then-state Senate Majority Leader John Sampson cling to power.
But Paterson said yesterday he was surprised — and troubled — that federal authorities are now conducting a criminal probe of the Aqueduct contract over suspected bid-rigging.
Paterson said the explosive federal inquiry — revealed in Tuesday ‘s Post — comes three years after the state inspector general’s scathing report accused Sampson, Sen. Malcolm Smith and others of helping Aqueduct Entertainment Group land the multibillion-dollar pact.
PALS: Sen. John Sampson (above) was “vulnerable,” so then-Gov. David Paterson tried to help, he admitted yesterday.
PALS: Sen. John Sampson (above) was “vulnerable,” so then-Gov. David Paterson tried to help, he admitted yesterday.
“Certainly it is noteworthy that after the state IG investigated it in 2010 that it comes back in 2013,” Paterson told The Post’s Fredric U. Dicker’s on Albany’s Talk 1300 radio.
Paterson recalled that Sampson backed AEG but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was opposed.
And Paterson admitted that he “broke the deadlock” on behalf of AEG as a political favor to Sampson — although he knew that some of AEG’s partners had checkered pasts.
Paterson said Sampson was a “vulnerable” new majority leader with a razor-thin majority. “He [Sampson] said he needs this a lot,” Paterson said of the AEG franchise. “And I went along with it.”
“The problem with the AEG company was that they had people on their board and involved in their operation who had scrapes and violations [with the law] on their record. So it immediately tainted their bid,” Paterson said.
“There was always this sense that something was wrong with the group. I didn’t know at the time whether it was true or wasn’t true.”
Albany officials rescinded the AEG selection amid the IG’s probe. A new bidding process led to the selection of Malaysia-based Genting, which currently operates the Big A’s Resorts World casino.

Feds launch probe into former NY state Senate Majority Leader John Sampson

  • Last Updated: 5:21 AM, January 4, 2013
  • Posted: 1:02 AM, January 4, 2013
  • LINK
The feds have launched a criminal probe of former state Senate Democratic Majority Leader John Sampson of Brooklyn, The Post has learned.
The inquiry focusing on Sampson’s campaign fund-raising stems from a broader federal probe into Queens Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks, sources said.
Shady real-estate broker Edul Ahmad is the common link that drew the feds from Meeks to Sampson, said sources familiar with the investigation.
Ahmad was embroiled in a congressional ethics probe for giving Meeks a secret $40,000 loan believed to have been a gift.
Edul Ahmad
Gabriella Bass
Edul Ahmad
Gregory Meeks
Bloomberg News
Gregory Meeks
HEAT IS ON: State Sen. John Sampson is now being targeted by federal investigators, whose probe into Rep. Gregory Meeks over dealings with real-estate broker Edul Ahmad led to Sampson.
William Farrington

HEAT IS ON: State Sen. John Sampson is now being targeted by federal investigators, whose probe into Rep. Gregory Meeks over dealings with real-estate broker Edul Ahmad led to Sampson.
More important, Ahmad pleaded guilty in October in a separate, $14 million mortgage-fraud scheme.
But his sentencing date has not been scheduled and the defendant is now cooperating with the feds and possibly singing about Meeks and Sampson, sources said.
Ahmad faces more than 10 years in the slammer for submitting bogus information on mortgage applications to lenders and using straw buyers to hide his role in the scam.
He also faces more than $15 million in fines and restitution.
Like Meeks, Sampson has strong ties to Ahmad. Sampson was Ahmad’s lawyer in real-estate dealings and even got into hot water over that representation.
The New York Department of State, which licenses real-estate brokers and other corporations, admonished Sampson for notarizing a statement by one of Ahmad’s workers without a valid notary license, which had lapsed.
Details were sketchy about what the federal probers were looking for in Sampson’s campaign records.
Ahmad was a Sampson donor, contributing at least $2,000 to the senator’s campaign kitty, records show.
FBI spokesman Martin Feely said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into Sampson or Meeks.
Sampson was questioned by two FBI agents who stopped him by surprise on a Brooklyn street outside his gym late last summer, sources told The Post.
A source familiar with the case said the agents initially could have been looking to flip Sampson and get him to cooperate against Meeks or even a target of some other investigation.
Either way, “they’re definitely looking at him,” the source said. “They’ve been interested in him for a while.”
Sampson has repeatedly declined Post requests for comment.
Through a spokesman, he declined to comment yesterday when asked again about the probe.
The feds continue to probe Meeks even though the House Ethics Committee cleared him for failing for two years to report a $40,000 loan from Ahmad that appeared to have been an interest-free gift.
The panel last month concluded that Meeks’ inaction was “inadvertent” and declined to rule on whether the loan was in fact a gift.
The revelation of the federal probe into Sampson comes two weeks after he was dumped as the Senate’s Democratic leader in a 19-6 vote. He was replaced by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester.
It’s not the first time Sampson has been in investigators’ cross hairs.
A bombshell report by the state inspector general in 2010 slammed Sampson for tainting the bidding process in the award of a contract to run the Aqueduct casino in Queens.
Sampson, then the majority leader, was fingered for leaking a confidential bidding document to the lobbyist for the politically connected firm AEG, which subsequently won the contract.
The state yanked the billion-dollar contract from AEG when the Inspector General’s Office launched its probe.
Sampson claimed the bidding document was public information and he insisted he did nothing wrong.
Critics branded Sampson a weak and in effective Senate leader and said the ethical transgressions played a role in the Democrats losing the majority two years ago.

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