Expected Bribery Case

January 4, 2012 by staff 

Expected Bribery Case, Richard J. Lipsky, a prominent New York lobbyist who was charged in the bribery conspiracy case that also ensnared State Senator Carl Kruger, is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, a person briefed on the matter said Tuesday.
Mr. Lipsky’s plea would come just two weeks after Mr. Kruger resigned from the Senate and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in the broad conspiracy case that has been seen as reflecting corruption in Albany. Mr. Kruger faces up to 50 years in prison when he is sentenced in April by Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

Mr. Lipsky was one of eight defendants originally charged in the case, and was scheduled for trial this month.

Another co-defendant, Dr. Robert Aquino, the former chief executive officer of Parkway Hospital in Queens, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of conspiracy, leaving just one defendant facing trial. Prosecutors had said that Dr. Aquino caused Parkway to make $60,000 in payments to a firm linked to Mr. Kruger.

Dr. Aquino, 54, of Glen Head, N.Y., told Judge Rakoff that in return for the payments, he understood Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, “would take official actions in an effort — a failed effort — to keep Parkway Hospital open.”

“It was your intent to bribe him?” Judge Rakoff asked at one point.

“Yes, Your Honor,” Dr. Aquino replied.

Judge Rakoff told Dr. Aquino he could face a sentence of five years in prison for the one count.

In its agreement with Dr. Aquino, the government said that it would write a letter “to appropriate medical licensing boards” describing the facts and circumstances of his case, as well as “the defendant’s prior cooperation on another matter.” The document does not elaborate, and neither prosecutors nor Dr. Aquino’s lawyer would say what the matter involved.

Dr. Aquino’s lawyer, Peter B. Pope, said after the proceeding, “This is a situation where the doctor wants to accept responsibility for his actions and move on with his life and try to do good for people, the way he has in the past. He’s been a doctor a long time.”

Mr. Pope said that his client had practiced in emergency rooms and later managed them.

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said Tuesday that Dr. Aquino had been “all too willing to make sure a bribe was paid to preserve his job” as a hospital chief executive. “Like others in this case, he chose to fight his battle with money under the table rather than to play by the rules,” Mr. Bharara added.

It was unclear on Tuesday what charge the lobbyist, Mr. Lipsky, would plead guilty to. Mr. Lipsky, 64, of Manhattan, has long portrayed himself as an advocate for the underdog; he has been a frequent presence in City Hall and in the State Capitol, and has had a reputation as a pugnacious fighter for his clients.

But in March, prosecutors charged that he had shared fees with Mr. Kruger, and in return, the legislator had taken official actions on issues for which Mr. Lipsky had been paid to lobby. Over several years, a criminal complaint charged, Mr. Lipsky directed about $260,000 in lobbying fees to two shell companies linked to Mr. Kruger.

“Kruger’s official actions included sponsoring and supporting legislation, lobbying other elected officials and directing state monies for the benefit of Lipsky and his clients,” the complaint said. Prosecutors have said that during a search of Mr. Lipsky’s residence and office, F.B.I. agents found $102,000 in cash in a safe in his closet, and some $4,000 in crisp bills in his suit pocket.

Mr. Lipsky’s clients included a Bronx beverage distributor, a supermarket retailer and a real estate developer that has been identified as Forest City Ratner. None of the clients were accused of any wrongdoing. Neither prosecutors nor Mr. Lipsky’s lawyer would comment on any expected plea.

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