Updated, 12:37 p.m. | A Queens district leader and two-time candidate for the City Council surrendered to federal authorities Wednesday morning to face corruption charges, including mail fraud conspiracy and obstruction of justice, stemming from what prosecutors said were campaign finance improprieties.
The district leader, Albert J. Baldeo, a Democrat, is accused of using phantom donors to funnel illegal campaign contributions to his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the City Council, to fraudulently increase the amount of matching funds provided by the city, federal prosecutors said. He is being charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, attempted mail fraud, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and obstruction of justice.
Mr. Baldeo, whose district includes Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, surrendered at the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at Federal Plaza shortly after 9 a.m. He is expected to be arraigned Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The charges were announced by the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Mary Galligan, the acting assistant director of the F.B.I., who heads the bureau’s New York office, in a statement issued by Mr. Bharara.
Ms. Galligan said in the statement that Mr. Baldeo’s fraud, according to the government, was fabricating contributions to his campaign to receive six dollars in matching funds for every dollar he reportedly raised.
“These were nothing more than funds drawn from his own bank account, disguised as donations from others,” Ms. Galligan said. “When F.B.I. agents began to uncover his deceitful scheme, Mr. Baldeo told straw donors to lie to our agents and in some cases threatened and intimidated others in a vain attempt to derail the F.B.I.’s investigation.”
Mr. Bharara said that Mr. Baldeo “was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances – including engaging in a scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws by funneling his own money through straw donors.”
Mr. Baldeo, a lawyer, could not be reached for comment.
His lawyer, Henry E. Mazurek of Clayman & Rosenberg, said in a prepared statement that Mr. Baldeo had devoted himself to public service, and had been singled out in unfair treatment.
“The government crusade against Mr. Baldeo is particularly vindictive and discriminatory given that past history reveals that more sinister conduct alleged against establishment candidates often resulted in civil administrative proceedings — and not criminal cases,” he said. “We intend to vindicate Mr. Baldeo’s good name and commendable civil service. We regret, however, that the government will force this well-intentioned community servant to suffer the emotional and financial costs that criminal litigation entails.”
Mr. Baldeo also ran unsuccessfully for the City Council in 2005 and for the State Senate in 2006. A district leader, also known as a state committeeperson, is an unpaid, part-time elected official who serves a two-year term. The leader’s duties include endorsing candidates and helping to select the county party’s leader.