New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday that he has retained a prominent criminal defense lawyer to help him cooperate with state and federal corruption probes surrounding City Hall and his 2013 campaign.
The lawyer, Barry Berke of the Manhattan firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, was previously retained to represent de Blasio’s campaign, and will continue in that role. He is a de Blasio appointee to the Lincoln Center board of directors.
City Hall has been besieged by reports that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office has been investigating possible city favors for donors ranging from developers to foes of Central Park horse carriages, and the lifting of use restrictions on a health facility after its sale to a connected developer.
Bharara has also been probing NYPD corruption, and a separate state-federal probe is looking into de Blasio’s efforts to funnel big contributions to Democratic state Senate campaigns. Subpoenas were served on City Hall last week.
For once this week, the de Blasio corruption news beats the Cuomo corruption news.
This one's a doozy.
It suggests de Blasio's got real trouble - not just political trouble but the kind that can get you an orange jumpsuit.
And here's more de Blasio corruption news:
The feds and the Manhattan DA are probing whether straw donors contributed to Mayor de Blasio’s 2013 campaign for City Hall, The Post has confirmed.
Investigators want to know if people were reimbursed or given cash to pass along to the campaign in their names, in an effort by the actual donors to avoid the city’s $4,950 cap on individual contribution, sources said.
Suspicious donations to de Blasio include nearly $10,000 apiece from two commercial drivers for a beauty-products wholesaler, according to DNAInfo.com, which first reported the straw-donor investigation.
The men gave nearly $10,000 each to de Blasio’s mayoral run and transition team in less than two months — and one of them told DNAInfo he never donated anything at all.
Rafael Zepeda, who lives in Corona, Queens and listed himself as a driver for Primary One LLC on his donation card, contributed $5,000 to the de Blasio campaign on Oct. 27, 2013. That donation was made during a Washington Heights fund-raiser that Zepeda never attended, records show. He was later reimbursed $50 since the contribution was over the limit.
Zepeda then forked over another $4,500 to de Blasio’s mayoral transition committee in December 2013, according to records.
While he initially said he personally made the donations, he went back on that hours later, saying they weren’t from him.
His Primary One co-worker, Jose Zepeda, of Elmhurst, also made two donations: one for $5,000 at an October 2013 fund-raiser and another for $4,500 in December 2013. It was unclear if the Zepedas are related. Both drivers work for Smali Amanollahi, a wealthy de Blasio donor. All told, Amanollahi, his relatives, employees and associates chipped in at least $55,000 to de Blasio’s campaign between October 2013 and December 2013, DNAInfo reported. “These guys are making very good money,” Amanollahi told The Post.
“They get their raises every year.”
He added that he’s forked over “a lot of money to a lot of people.”
A de Blasio spokesperson said, “We are reviewing the donations and will take any appropriate action.
Straw donors - that's the thing that got John Liu.
May not reach the level of de Basio himself, but it adds to the criminal investigations he and the people around him are under.
The more investigations we get, the more likely he's finished politically.
What is this now, like five? Six?
That's an awful lot to have going on and still run for re-election with a straight face.
The BOE memo referring criminal prosecution for Team de Blasio's 2014 state Senate work was politically motivated, as was the leak of said memo.
And the tabloid coverage of the scandals enveloping de Blasio is also politically motivated - not just at the Post but also the Daily News.
That said, there are just too many investigations going on, too much corruption smoke swirling around de Blasio these days for there not to be an actual fire or two.