By Joe Anuta
Jimmy Meng’s guilty plea to charges of soliciting and accepting an $80,000 bribe may not make his daughter, state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), vulnerable for re-election two years down the line, but it could bring undue scrutiny when she is sworn in as a congresswoman in January.
Former Assemblyman Jimmy Meng, who represented Flushing from 2005 and 2006, pleaded guilty to wire fraud Nov. 15 and faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars when he is sentenced March 12, according to Brooklyn federal court documents.
The 68-year-old admitted he took an $80,000 bribe from an acquaintance and promised to use it to influence prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.
But the acquaintance, who the New York Post identified as businessman Eric Hu, began cooperating with federal investigators and even wore a wire to build evidence against Meng.
Hu was facing federal tax charges and approached Meng for help. The former assemblyman said he would give the $80,000 to prosecutors in the DA’s office in order to soften the sentence Hu would receive, according to court documents.
On July 24, while federal agents watched, Meng accepted the kickback hidden inside of a fruit basket, court documents show.
“I am deeply saddened by the events surrounding my father the last several months. Today, he has taken full responsibility for his actions and I support his decision,” said the assemblywoman, who once served as her father’s campaign manager. “This has been a difficult time for our family and we continue to pray for guidance in the coming months. My family hopes to continue to move past this chapter in their lives.”
Meng did not attend the court session and was instead away in Washington learning the ropes after winning a congressional race in Queens earlier this month.
According to David Birdsell, dean of Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs, it is a strategy aimed at separating the lawmaker from the deeds of her father.
And as long as Grace Meng herself is not implicated in any wrongdoing, Birdsell believes this is more of a personal tragedy for the assemblywoman instead of a political liability.
“In the absence of any specific charges, I don’t see this as a difficultly for her,” he said. “Of course, opponents will try to dine out on this, but I don’t think they’re going to find much on the plate.”
But a Democratic insider said that regardless of whether the assemblywoman is tied to her father’s crimes, it will still bring scrutiny on her tenure in office and fund-raising.
“It puts Grace Meng under a microscope. Rightly or wrongly, every action she takes and every dollar she raises is going to be closely examined because she is playing in the big leagues now,” the source said.
In court last week, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch took Jimmy Meng to task for not only accepting the bribe, but also for planning to keep the money for himself.
“Jimmy Meng sought to take advantage of his status as a power broker in the Flushing, Queens, community with only one design in mind — lining his own pockets. Meng dangled the promise of justice for sale, but his claims of special access to prosecutors were nothing more than lies designed to satisfy his greed,” she said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.