By Howard Koplowitz
He used to be state comptroller, but now Forest Hills resident Alan Hevesi is known as Inmate 11-R-1334.
Hevesi was sent to a jail Friday in upstate Ulster County after being sentenced earlier that day to one to four years in prison for his role in the corruption scheme involving the state pension fund.
The 71-year-old Hevesi, who was also a former state assemblyman and city comptroller, pleaded guilty in October in Manhattan Supreme Court to taking about $1 million in gifts, including trips to Israel and Italy, in exchange for pension fund business.
In addressing the court, Hevesi admitted wrongdoing before Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus sentenced him Friday to the maximum sentence of one to four years in prison.
In speaking about the public, Hevesi said, “I violated their trust and take full responsibility for my indiscretion. I publicly disgraced myself.
“I have only myself to blame for what I have done,” Hevesi said.
Hevesi, who was comptroller from January 2003 to December 2006, admitted to accepting nearly $1 million in gifts from Elliott Broidy, the California-based founder of Markstone Capital Partners, a hedge fund that specializes in Israeli investments.
In return for the gifts, Hevesi invested $250 million in pension fund dollars with Markstone.
In calling for the maximum sentence, prosecutor Ellen Biben dismissed Hevesi attorney Bradley Simon’s urging that Hevesi’s behavior was a temporary lapse in judgement.
“Defendant Hevesi is a highly sophisticated individual … and has spent most of his professional life and more than 30 years in different public positions. This conduct does not reflect an aberration. It reflects a pattern,” Biben said. “Defendant Hevesi’s conduct during his tenure as comptroller is particularly offensive. Your honor, simply put, instead of using his power to protect the pension fund, he abused his power.”
Simon asked Obus to put Hevesi’s conduct “in perspective,” arguing Morris and David Loglisci, who also pleaded guilty in connection with abuse of the pension fund, benefitted greater financially than Hevesi did.
“Mr. Hevesi accepts the fact that Mr. Morris and Mr. Loglisci and others amassed enormous financial wealth under his watch,” Simon said.
Simon said Hevesi “continues to live an extremely modest lifestyle,” living in the same attached house in Forest Hills that he has for years. “It’s never been about money or wealth for Mr. Hevesi.”
Simon said Hevesi fought for the first hospice law in the state and patients who could not afford to pay are not turned down by hospitals because of the former assemblyman.
“We have to look at Mr. Hevesi as a man and not make him a symbol for public integrity,” Simon said.
The attorney argued that Hevesi has heart disease and needs a pacemaker and that any jail time “could possibly be a death sentence for him.”
“Mr. Hevesi has already been punished by how he has disgraced himself, by how he has disgraced his family,” Simon said. “He knows he’s a pariah.”
But Obus sided with the prosecutors, saying the “damage” that Hevesi caused to the comptroller’s office “is quite profound.”
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Hevesi’s successor, called the sentence “a welcome and just conclusion to a year-long saga.
“Mr. Hevesi betrayed the trust of all New Yorkers,” DiNapoli said. “His sentence is clear evidence that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who took over the prosecution of Hevesi after Gov. Andrew Cuomo was elected governor, said Hevesi was “appropriately punished.”
“Hevesi brazenly sold access to New York pension fund investments — a betrayal of the public trust that went to the heart of his duties as comptroller,” Schneiderman said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.