Baldeo Guilty Of Interference
Despite being acquitted of federal fraud charges, former Democratic District Leader and perennial candidate Albert Baldeo was convicted Monday, Aug. 11, of interfering with the investigation against him.
A jury found the 54-year-old Richmond Hill resident guilty on seven obstruction of justice charges following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty. Baldeo faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars for each count when he is sentenced in December.
The jury found Baldeo not guilty of a scheme to fraudulently obtain $15,000 in funds from the city’s Campaign Finance Bureau (CFB) for his failed 2010 bid for a vacant City Council seat. The CFB denied his request and an investigation followed.
According to prosecutors, Baldeo instructed certain straw donors to either refuse to cooperate with investigators or provide them with false information.
Upon learning that one of the straw donors refused to lie, law enforcement agents said, Baldeo and an associate used city agencies as a form of harassment. In one instance, Baldeo’s associate-who was not charged in the matter-allegedly phoned in a phony complaint to the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) accusing the donor of abusing his grandchild.
Authorities said Baldeo and the associate also filed false complaints with the city’s Department of Buildings about properties that the straw donor and his wife owned. Reportedly, Baldeo additionally faxed a threatening letter to the donor’s attorney.
“The fact that Albert Baldeo lost his election does not excuse his corrupt conduct,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara in a press release on Monday. “With today’s verdict of guilty, an impartial federal jury has found that Baldeo lied and instructed others to lie to law enforcement agents investigating the source of his campaign contributions and threatened and intimidated others in order to conceal the truth.”
Elected in 2010 as the Democratic district leader for the 38th Assembly District, Baldeo was one of six candidates that November who sought the vacant 28th City Council District seat in a special election. The seat was held by the late Thomas White, who died earlier in the year, and subsequently won by Ruben Wills.
Two years after the failed effort, federal prosecutors charged Baldeo with concocting a scheme during the City Council campaign to obtain $15,000 from the CFB. He reportedly provided several individuals (straw donors) with his own money and instructed them to donate it to his campaign.
After they complied with his request, Baldeo allegedly instructed them to sign a CFB campaign contribution card including their name, address, employment information and amount of money which they falsely claimed they donated on their own accord.
Several of the straw donors were also instructed by Baldeo to sign affidavits falsely affirming that the contributions made to his campaign were their own, prosecutors noted. The contribution cards and one of the affidavits were reportedly sent to the CFB along with Baldeo’s matching fund request.
Ultimately, the CFB denied the claim due to questions regarding the validity of many of the purported contributions. Thereafter, the agency, along with the FBI, launched investigations.
Bharara thanked the FBI, the CFB, the DOB and the ACS for their cooperation in the matter.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal and Martin S. Bell of the office’s Public Corruption Unit prosecuted the case.