The lieutenant governor of New York has been arrested for federal fraud charges related to a campaign finance scheme that allegedly occurred during a 2021 campaign.
Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin (D), a former New York state senator from Harlem, surrendered to federal authorities on March 12. He is now facing federal charges of wire fraud, bribery and falsification of records as authorities have accused him of funneling fraudulent donations from a Harlem real estate investor into his failed 2021 campaign for New York City comptroller.
In November of 2021, federal authorities charged the real estate investor, Gerald Migdol, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection to the illegal campaign donation given to Benjamin’s unsuccessful comptroller campaign.
Following Migdol’s arrest, Benjamin’s office released a statement promising that he was assisting law enforcement with the investigation.
“Neither Lieutenant Governor Benjamin nor his campaign are being accused of any wrongdoing and they are prepared to fully cooperate with authorities,” the statement read. “As soon as the campaign discovered that these contributions were improperly sourced, they donated them to the Campaign Finance Board, pursuant to guidance obtained from the CFB.”
The federal charges against the lieutenant governor were the result of an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to the New York Times.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) picked Benjamin to join her administration in September, following the resignation of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
Hochul has so far stood up for Benjamin, denying that he took part in any wrongdoing, despite the fact that he had been given subpoenas for financial records related to the donations prior to Hochul choosing him as her second-in-command.
Speaking with the press, the governor said that she still has faith in Benjamin.
“I have utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor,” Hochul said. “This is an independent investigation related to other people and he’s fully cooperating. He is my running mate.”
Benjamin’s arrest is just the latest in a long line of New York political figures marred by scandal, including Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D), former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), and many more.