Of all the charges and the allegations in a 17-page criminal complaint accusing a powerful New York City union leader of corruption, perhaps the most far-reaching development was woven into the legal boilerplate, essentially hiding in plain sight.A person, referred to as “CW-1,” for Cooperating Witness 1, had agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.The cooperator’s name was not mentioned in the complaint unsealed on Wednesday, but several people with knowledge of the matter said it was Jona S. Rechnitz, a central figure in one of the half-dozen continuing federal corruption investigations focused on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fund-raising.Mr. Rechnitz, who has generously supported several of Mr. de Blasio’s interests and served on the mayor’s inaugural committee, has pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy charges in connection with the corruption case against Norman Seabrook, the influential leader of the union that represents the city’s correction officers, and another defendant, according to the complaint.But the significance of his decision to join the roster of government witnesses could go far beyond the case against the union leader, and have wide-ranging consequences for Mr. de Blasio.The complaint in the corruption case, along with statements by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York (whose office brought it), and interviews with people with knowledge of the fund-raising inquiries, strongly suggest that Mr. Rechnitz could serve as an important witness in at least one of the fund-raising matters.At a news conference on Wednesday announcing the charges against Mr. Seabrook, Mr. Bharara declined to answer questions about the identity of CW-1 and the degree to which the witness could be helpful in other cases.But he noted that “the complaint does say that he is assisting other investigations as well; that’s all I’ll say.”
While Mr. Bharara also declined to answer questions about the fund-raising inquiries during the news conference, he left little doubt that there were more public corruption cases on the horizon.“As those of you who come here often appreciate, it is seldom the case that the bringing of a particular charge at a particular date is the end of the matter,” he said. “We’re still investigating lots of different things, and you should expect to see me again.”
Ominous words for Bill de Blasio, that's for sure.