Tag Archives: Silver

Silver’s third attempt to get charges tossed fails

Sheldon SilverOn Friday, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni rejected Sheldon Silver’s attempt to get some of the corruption charges against him thrown out.

Silver’s lawyers argued that the federal charges against him erroneously raised run-of-the-mill conflict-of-interest cases to the level of extortion, and that they would be best settled by a board of ethics rather than a jury. Judge Caproni let these charges stand.

They also claimed that a late charge against Silver of using his office to access investment opportunities not available to the average person would prejudice him before the jury. Judge Caproni pointed out the the rest of the indictment didn’t exactly “make Silver look like a boy scout.”

Silver’s trial is set to begin November 2. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison, and would have to immediately vacate his assembly seat. Silver has taken steps to secure control of his succession by helping friends and family get onto the county committee that will select the Democrat for a special election.

More on this story from the Lo-Down, Forward, and Crain’s.

Silver-Rapfogel political machine still rules Grand Street despite conviction, indictment, and scandal

Grand Street connections

If you thought robbing the poor to fill your mattress with $3 million would lose you friends and influence — if you thought being charged with fraud and extortion would loosen your grip on the local political machine — then you haven’t been living on Grand Street long enough.

This month, petitions were filed for the kind of small, local political posts that machine politics are built on, and the names of candidates and petition carriers read like a who’s who of Coop Village.

Current and past presidents of East River Housing; current and former board members from Hillman, Seward, and East River; even family members and staff of the Coop Village management office had no qualms about carrying petitions for, and running alongside, Rapfogels and Silvers, the wives and children of our disgraced neighbors.

These party positions can hold a big influence in certain situations. If Sheldon Silver were convicted on federal corruption charges, members of the Democratic County Committee would get to choose the nominee for the special election to fill his seat — which in this heavily Democratic district means they would get to hand-pick Silver’s successor.

And since Silver has hand-picked those committee members, you shouldn’t expect his grasp on power to diminish.

Who would pick Silver’s successor?

Silver’s wife, Rosa Silver, would be on that committee. So would Judy Rapfogel, Silver’s chief of staff and the wife of William Rapfogel who pled guilty last year to embezzling millions of dollars meant for the poor from the huge nonprofit he ran for many years. Also Rapfogel’s son, Marc Rapfogel, and sister Freda Rapfogel Fried (a former board member at Seward) would have a hand in deciding the fate of that assembly seat.

Two of Silver’s staff members, Tunisia Wragg and Zachary Bommer, spent time on Grand Street collecting signatures for their boss. This was a calculated, organized attempt to control the future of Silver’s seat if he is convicted this fall.

Current East River board president Gary Altman would also be on that committee. So would former East River board president Leonard Greher, current board member Rachel Ehrenpreis, and Jacob Goldman, the brother of another current East River board member, Dov Goldman.

Longtime district leader for Silver’s assembly district and former Hillman board member David Weinberger would be on that committee as well, as would his wife, Hedy Weinberger. A current Hillman board member, Judith Mitrani, also collected signatures from local Democrats.

Earlier this year, the Forward predicted that Silver’s arrest, following Rapfogel’s conviction, signalled the end of an era on Grand Street, noting that the only member of the “lower east side power troika” left standing was Harold Jacob, general manager of East River and Hillman. But with Jacob’s daughters carrying petitions for Silvers and Rapfogels, and even one of Jacob’s office staff landing a spot on that key county committee, the end of that era still seems a long way off.

Links: 65A Truman Petition 2015 1 of 2 and 65A Truman Petition 2015 2 of 2

Ignominy continues for our notable neighbor

Sheldon SilverSheldon Silver may be able to carpool with his family to the federal courthouse this fall: his corruption trial is set to start on Nov. 2, the same day his son-in-law will be sentenced for running a $6 million Ponzi scheme for the past seven years.

The son-in-law, Marcello Trebitsch, pleaded guilty yesterday after being arrested and charged in April.

Trebitsch’s wife — Silver’s daughter — Michelle Trebitsch is the co-owner and managing partner of the fraudulent investment fund implemented in the scheme. She, however, has not been charged.

The NYT has the story.

Still no answer about East River’s relationship with Silver’s real estate lawyer

In the wake of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s arrest in January, I asked board president Gary Altman to clear the air about East River’s relationship with Arthur Goldberg. Goldberg is a real estate lawyer who for many years has handled East River tax certiorari cases. Goldberg was also named in the federal indictment against Silver as one of the lawyers alleged to send kickbacks to the former speaker.

Given Silver’s long association with East River’s management and directors, I thought it was reasonable to ask that cooperators be assured that no past or present members of East River’s board or management had received referral fees for our business with Goldberg.

I received no answer from Mr. Altman to my February 2 letter. At the beginning of March I sent him the same letter and still received no answer. In fact, I have yet to receive even an acknowledgement of my question being asked. Today I delivered my letter to Mr. Altman for a third time.

To be clear, the Silver indictment in no way implicates East River. But since even the mention of East River in such a high-profile case of alleged fraud naturally raises cooperators’ concerns — not to mention prospective buyers’ misgivings — it seemed natural that the board should have the opportunity to address the elephant in the room. I cannot imagine why Mr. Altman has decided to ignore these reasonable questions.

Here is the original letter:

Clearing the air

Ten days after watching news trucks line up on Grand & Lewis, here’s the question everyone around here is asking — do the charges against Sheldon Silver have anything to do with our coop?

There’s no indication that they do. Yet the prominent role played in the allegations against Silver by the same real estate law firm retained by East River Housing for tax certiorari work has kept cooperators buzzing.

The initial New York Times report that presaged the federal complaint quoted East River’s general manager, Harold Jacob, and referenced a letter in our most recent annual report written by board president Gary Altman. It was awkward to see our coop mentioned in the same article that first revealed the serious charges against Silver. Even more awkward, I think, is that neither Jacob nor Altman have yet addressed the elephant in the room.

In the letter below, delivered to Altman today, I’m asking him to clear the air. In particular, records that show that Goldberg was awarded our business through a legitimate bidding process should be released, as should our retainer agreements with Goldberg that would prove no one was receiving referral fees.

I assume that our business relationship with Goldberg is clean, and I expect it will be a simple matter for our board and management to show that. Then we can do away with whatever dark cloud this episode has cast over our home. But cooperators, I believe, deserve an answer to the question on everyone’s mind.

Daily News looks at Grand Street’s dark side

Wayne Barrett, who covered state and city politics for many years at the Village Voice, writes in today’s New York Daily News about the web of friendship, power, and federal investigations centered on our end of Grand Street:

Silver has been the face of possibly the most diverse legislative caucus in American history, but his life is as dark and parochial as his fedora. The universe he truly cares about covers a few blocks on the Lower East Side, where he was born and still lives, and where a mountain of ambitions was hidden on a tiny stretch of Grand Street.

Even as he ruled a vast state, it was always Grand Street that was his capital. And it was the clan he met there whose code he embodies.

Barrett tries to connect the dots between several boldfaced names, even though only two of them have been accused of wrongdoing.

Growing up on or near Grand Street, the Rapfogels, Goldberg, Zachter, Lippman, and Silver were virtual Little Rascals, with Silver playing the ringleader in “Our Gang” then and as its members made their way in the world.

Whatever you make of Barrett’s dark conclusions, it’s clear that a veil is being lifted on Grand Street. Expect more attention to come our way as the Sheldon Silver story unfolds and more reporters try to figure out what makes him tick.

Sheldon Silver arrested on five counts of fraud, bribery, and extortion

This morning’s blockbuster political news resonates profoundly right here on Grand Street. Sheldon Silver is not just one of the most powerful men in state government, he is our local representative in Albany, a neighbor, and, to many here at East River, a friend.

Sheldon Silver

This morning, after almost 40 years in the New York State Assembly and over 20 years as Speaker, Silver surrendered to the FBI to face five counts of federal corruption charges.

The official complaint against Silver focuses on money he has earned as a private lawyer from two law firms, one a personal injury law firm that Silver had acknowledged in disclosures for years, the second a small real estate tax firm that only recently was brought to light. Prosecutors claim that money paid to Silver was not for any actual work performed or for legitimate referrals, but rather as kickbacks and bribes.

The indictment complaint alleges that Silver’s income from personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg came primarily from asbestos case referrals through one particular New York doctor whose research was frequently supported by grants approved by the state assembly.

The indictment complaint further charges that Silver’s income from real estate firm Goldberg & Iryami were also illegal referral fees.

It should be noted here that, although the real estate tax firm Goldberg & Iryami has represented East River Housing for years, the indictment complaint explicitly states that alleged kickbacks were received exclusively from work done for two major developers with business before the state; though those two developers are not named in the indictment complaint, they are believed to be Leonard Litwin and Baruch Singer and not our relatively small-fry coop.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will be holding a press conference at 1:00 pm today to outline the charges.

Here’s the full indictment complaint:

US v Sheldon Silver Complaint

NY Times: Silver under investigation for ties to East River tax cert lawyers

SheldonSilverThe New York Times is reporting that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is under federal investigation for “substantial” unreported income from the tax certiorari firm that has represented East River Housing Corp for many years.

According to the article, Silver has received money from the firm Goldberg & Iryami for over a decade without disclosing that information on financial disclosure forms as required by law. It is not known what work Silver was being compensated for.

Goldberg has represented East River and Hillman, as well as many other properties on the lower east side, for the purpose of lowering property tax bills. Firms such as these typically receive from their clients a percentage of the reduction they win from the city.

The Times cites unnamed sources “with knowledge of the matter.” They printed no comment from the FBI, the US Attorney, or Speaker Silver.