Former City Council hopeful goes to trial for campaign finance fraud

Celia Dosamantes, 26, went to trial for campaign violations from her 2015 run for the seat now held by Councilman Barry Grodenchik.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Mark Hallum

A unsuccessful City Council candidate went on trial Jan. 10 on charges that she submitted fraudulent campaign contribution reports in order to cash in on the city’s matching-funds program.

Celia Dosamantes, 26, was a Bellerose resident when she and other candidates faced now-Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) in a primary for a 2015 special election. Grodenchik went on to win Mark Weprin’s former seat. Dosamantes, who was indicted last year, is accused of trying to pocket about $19,000 for 32 fictitious contributions to her campaign.

The New York Post reported that Dosamantes’s lawyer argued that she had no knowledge that the amount on contribution cards had been fudged to show a higher contribution to take advantage of the $6-to-$1 matching program.

“This is about a candidate who wanted control,” Manhattan prosecutor Philip Gary said. “She wanted control so that no one — not a staffer, not an auditor, not a contributor — could get in her way of stealing more than $19,000 from they city’s taxpayers. She’s not a person to play by the rules.”

In order to claim the funds, the authorities said, Dosamantes signed off on dozens of contribution cards filed to the Campaign Finance Board that had been digitally altered between Aug. 6 and 10, 2015. According to the indictment, the filings made it seem as though donors had contributed twice. All confirmed that they had not.

The indictment said that during a CFB visit to Dosamantes’s home in 2015, the candidate hid the additional contribution cards in a file folder on her lap.

Dosamantes said to the CFB multiple times she was only in charge of handling cash contributions, but a majority of the paperwork regarding the campaign’s finances had been kept in her Queens home.

A search warrant was eventually issued, and authorities took computers and documents showing forged contribution cards and other documents filed to the CFB website, which browser history showed had been visited multiple times, according to the indictment.

Before running for office, Dosamantes served as an aid to Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and grew up in Eastern Queens. She attended Francis Lewis High School and was trying to finish law school at the time of the campaign.

She campaigned on issues such as senior transportation solutions and school overcrowding.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is handling the prosecution.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by email at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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