Morris gets 1-4 yrs. in Hevesi graft scheme

Morris gets 1-4 yrs. in Hevesi graft scheme
By Howard Koplowitz

Hank Morris, former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s political right-hand man, was sentenced to 1 1/3 to four years in prison Friday for his role in a corruption scheme that ran rampant in Hevesi’s office, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

Morris’ wife was crying hysterically during her husband’s sentencing and bailiffs in Manhattan Supreme Court did not allow the couple to embrace as Morris was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, the New York Post reported.

“I love you. I love everybody. I’ll see you soon,” Morris said, according to the newspaper.

When Hevesi was comptroller from January 2003 through December 2006, Morris, who was his chief political adviser, received so-called placement fees from companies doing business with the state pension fund, according to the charges against him.

Morris, 57, then used the funds to hand out favors and paybacks to political friends and allies as well as himself, the criminal complaint said.

The political adviser promoted more than $5 billion in pension fund business that resulted in his receiving $19 million in fees, which he was ordered to forfeit to the pension fund as a result of his agreement to plead guilty to the charges in November.

“Justice was served on Hank Morris, who will be appropriately punished for his role in one of the largest pay-to-play schemes in New York state history,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “[Friday’s] sentencing decision by the court sends a strong message to New Yorkers that those who abuse positions of power to line their own pockets will be held accountable by this office.”

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Lewis Bart Stone sentenced Morris to 1 1/3 to four years in prison, the maximum allowed by law.

As part of Morris’ November guilty plea, he is prohibited from holding any public position or entering into any contractual relationship with the state or any governmental entity within the state, Schneiderman said.

Morris will also lose his law license as part of his guilty plea.

His sentencing was the first that resulted from the long-running investigation started by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo into corruption in Hevesi’s office and the state pension fund, Schneiderman said.

The investigation uncovered a complex criminal scheme involving numerous people operating at the highest political and government levels under then-Comptroller Hevesi, a Forest Hills resident who was a former city comptroller and state assemblyman.

The scheme involved Morris and his political allies and friends reaping tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks, bribes and sham consulting and finder fees connected to the pension fund, Schneiderman said.

Hevesi pleaded guilty in October to taking $1 million in gifts in exchange for $250 million in pension fund business from Markstone Capital Partners, a private equity firm that has some involvement in Israeli investments.

Hevesi’s sentencing had been scheduled for Dec. 16, but has yet to occur.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.