Father Of Current Congress Candidate
Former Assemblyman Jimmy Meng was arrested on Tuesday, July 24, on a federal wire fraud charge for allegedly soliciting $80,000 in cash from a state court defendant and falsely claiming that he would use the money to bribe prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to obtain a reduced sentence.
According to the complaint, the government’s investigation uncovered no evidence that Meng actually contacted anyone in the District Attorney’s Office on the individual’s behalf but instead planned to keep the “bribe money” for himself. Meng is was arraigned Tuesday afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack at the federal courthouse in downtown Brooklyn.
The arrest was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Janice K. Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Meng is the father of Assemblywoman Grace Meng, who was elected to the Flushing-based seat he previously held between 2004 and 2006 and is the Democratic nominee for the new Sixth Congressional Dis- trict seat.
In a statement released by her campaign, Grace Meng said, “I am shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations. Prior to this afternoon’s reports, I had no knowledge of my father’s actions or the investigation. I am independent of my father -always have been, always will be. Until more facts emerge and we have a better understanding of the situation, the only thing further I’ll say is that I urge my father to fully cooperate with all authorities.”
As alleged in the federal criminal complaint, in 2011, a grand jury in Manhattan returned an indictment charging an individual (the cooperating witness) with state tax crimes. Thereafter, the individual approached Meng and sought his advice and assistance in the case.
Jimmy Meng allegedly told the individual that several assistant district attorneys in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been assigned to the individual’s case, and if the individual paid them $20,000 each, the individual would be sentenced to one year in prison, a sentence substantially below the plea offer extended by the District Attorney’s Office.
According to the federal complaint, between December 2011 and July, the cooperating witness, acting at the direction of FBI special agents, recorded numerous telephone calls and meetings with Jimmy Meng which captured the former assemblyman discussing the charged bribe scheme. All recorded conversations between the witness and Meng were documented in Manhattan and subsequently translated into English by law enforcement authorities.
For example, the complaint alleges that in January, the witness met with Jimmy Meng at the former assemblyman’s lumber yard in Queens. During the recorded conversation, Meng told the witness that if the individual received a sentence of more than two years in jail, Meng would return the witness’ money, except for a $2,000 errand fee.
“I’ll be responsible. If [sic] didn’t get it done for you, right? Over three years, right? Over two years, right? Then just charge you $2,000- $2,000 for running errands and the rest-I take responsibility-will be returned to you completely,” Meng allegedly said.
Jimmy Meng then instructed the witness to collect $80,000 in cash and conceal it in a basket of fruit, which he would arrange to have picked up. He told the witness that several assistant district attorneys were assigned to the case and that each of them had to agree on the resolution of the witness’ case for the bribe scheme to succeed.
The former assemblyman explained that he had already initiated contact with the assistant prosecutors and told the wtiness that in order to ensure the secrecy of the purported bribe scheme, “you can never say in the future that Jimmy Meng helped me find people.”
The complaint further alleges that in February, the witness met with Jimmy Meng in a parking lot in Queens, where he discussed the bribe scheme. During this meeting, Meng claimed that an assistant district attorney who had refused to negotiate with the witness’ attorney must be paid bribe money.
The former assemblyman also reiterated that the witness’ money would be paid to the prosecutors and that if the witness received more than two years in prison, the money would be refunded.
Subsequently, in July, the witness placed a recorded telephone call to Jimmy Meng the day before the witness was due to appear at a status conference in state court. He allegedly told the witness that progress had been made on the case. Meng also told the witness that he would be contacting the “people on the other side” and reminded the witness not to tell the lawyer about Meng’s involvement in the case.
On or about July 17, during a recorded telephone call, Jimmy Meng told the cooperating witness to prepare the money and deliver it to Meng’s lumber yard. Meng told the witness, “Give it to me, and I will give it to them.”
Early on Tuesday, under the surveillance of FBI agents, the witness met with Jimmy Meng in the vicinity of Meng’s lumber yard in Queens. As directed by Meng, the witness brought a fruit basket containing thousands of dollars. After Meng accepted the fruit basket and the cash, he was placed under arrest by FBI special agents.
“As alleged in the complaint, Jimmy Meng sought to be a power broker in the halls of justice. But the influence he sought to peddle was corrupt, and his power was illusory. This arrest confirms that justice is not for sale,” Lynch said. “We will vigorously prosecute anyone who seeks to undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system, whether through fraud or bribery.”
“[Jimmy] Meng, as alleged in the complaint, promised he could reduce a defendant’s sentence, but only if they paid the right price and promised to keep Meng’s intentions a secret,” Fedarcyk added. “As it turns out, Meng was only looking to pad his own pockets in the form of a bountiful fruit basket worth $80,000 in bribe money. This type of conduct discredits the trust we place in our public officials, and it is exactly the reason why the FBI remains committed to rooting out all forms of public corruption.”
Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney’s Office for their assistance.
If convicted of wire fraud, Meng faces a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd Kaminsky and Marisa Seifan.
It was noted that the charge in the complaint is merely an allegation, and Jimmy Meng is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.