State Sen. Espada loses majority leader title following indictment

(AP) - New York and federal authorities on Tuesdayindicted a high-ranking state senator and his son on six chargesthat they embezzled more than $500,000 from their New York Cityhealth clinic for lavish spending, including Broadway shows, a downpayment on a Bentley automobile, and a pony for a birthday party. Democrat Sen. Pedro Espada, the Senate majority leader who losthis fall re-election bid, and his son Pedro Gautier Espada areaccused of taking money from Comprehensive Community DevelopmentCorp., a federally funded not-for-profit in the Bronx known asSoundview, which the senator founded 30 years ago. Espada vowed to fight the charges. Money that Espada and his son used to benefit themselves, aswell as friends and family members, should have been spent onmedical equipment and improving health care services in theimpoverished neighborhood, said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch inBrooklyn. "In these difficult economic times, the charged crimes are allthe more reprehensible," Lynch said. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said taxpayer funds since2005 were diverted for the Espadas' personal use, includingBroadway shows and fancy meals claimed as business expenses. The indictment claims Espada used $49,000 from a Soundviewsubsidiary as a down payment on a $125,000 Bentley and $14,000 intickets for sports and shows including Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys,Mary Poppins, the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular and aKenny G concert. The dealership never cashed the check for the carbecause Espada's application to finance the purchase was rejected. He also allegedly charged $110,000 in personal meals to aSoundview corporate American Express card. He spent $20,482 at justone restaurant, Toyo Sushi, near his home in Mamaroneck, N.Y.,according to the indictment. "There was no doubt he and his son were looting Soundview for alavish lifestyle," Cuomo, a Democrat, told reporters. He said the"cruel twist" was "they were using funds that were supposed togo to poor people." The elder Espada's attorney, Susan R. Necheles, said the senatordenies any wrongdoing in what Espada has called a political witchhunt. "Soundview has provided high quality health care to thousandsof families, children and senior citizens in the Bronx," Nechelesstated. Today is a sad day for Soundview ... we intend to fight thecharges in court." Hours before the indictment, Espada had issued a year-end reportof the majority leader. He took credit for some legislative reformsin the Senate and said more are needed to make lawmakersaccountable. "I am proud to have served as the catalyst for this reform,"he stated in a press release Senate Democrats wouldn't pay for. After the indictment was released, Espada was immediatelystripped of his majority leader title and removed as the Senate'shousing committee chairman. Cuomo, who will become governor in January, said they could faceup to 10 years in prison on each of five embezzlement charges, fiveyears for the single conspiracy count and fines of $250,000 on eachcharge.

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