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Political bribery arrests shake the Bronx

Bronx Times

The culture of corruption that has swept the borough in previous years and previous scandals was once again reverberating across its political landscape.

The head of the Bronx Republican Party and two state assemblymen, along with other Bronx individuals were swept up in federal sting operations involving bribery charges.

Some quarters have called the plots amateur tragi-comedies, with the players risking their careers over chump change.

Among the latest major latest developments:

•The city Board of Elections is weighing asking Gov. Cuomo to delay calling a costly special election to fill the west Bronx assembly seat of Nelson Castro, snagged in a perjury indictment in 2008 who went undercover for the feds.

• John Greany picked as new Bronx GOP chair, replacing Jay Savino, swept up in a federal bribery sting.

• Morrisania/Crotona Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, declared his innocence, saying he would fight federal bribery charges. He was allegedly caught “greenhanded,” shoving an envelope stuffed with $10,000 cash into his pocket for agreeing to push a special interest bill for adult daycare operators.

•The big prize in all of the political circus, of course, was former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, allegedly bribing Savino to add his name to the GOP line for mayor. State Senator Jeff Klein, who brought Smith into his Independent Democratic Conference, stripped Smith of committee positions.

New GOP Boss

After accepting Savino’s resignation, the Bronx County Republican Committee unanimously voted to elect John Greaney as new County Chair.

Savino, who was arrested April 2 at his home in Congers, Rockland County, was charged with accepting $40,000 in bribes to help Democrat Smith win a line on the Republican ballot for mayor.

Greaney, who previously worked for Borough President Freddie Ferrer as a special advisor, also held a number of public service posts, and previously worked at the Bronx Board of Elections.

Stevenson daycare fix

Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was arrested by the feds for accepting $20,000 in bribes to help fast track the opening of two social adult centers in the Bronx – one on Westchester Ave. in Stevenson’s district and another on Jerome Avenue near ex-Assemblyman Nelson Castro’s district.

He was also accused of introducing a bill putting a moratorium on other social centers as a way to create a “local economy.” Throughout 2012, Stevenson met several times with Igor Belyanksy, his brother Rostislav, Igor Tsimerman and David Binman and Sigfredo Gonzalez, a minor Bronx wannabe political figure and executive director of the New Age Social Adult Center.

Gonzalez and former Assemblyman Nelson Castro secretly recorded the alleged conspiracy conversations. Video surveillance from the feds showed Stevenson stuffing a $10,000 cash bribe inside his pocket outside Jake’s Steakhouse in Riverdale.

Stevenson has vowed to fight the charges and refused to resign, although political experts say he’s now virtually useless in Albany.

Castro convertible

Castro, the first Dominican to represent the Bronx in the State Assembly, was formally charged with perjury during his 2008 run for the 86th Assembly District, and quickly converted into an undercover snitch for the U.S. Attorney and the FBI.

The disgraced pol resigned Monday, April 8 as part of a deal to save his own skin that involved becoming a federal informant in 2009. On Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty in Bronx state Supreme Court to three counts of perjury. His attorney, Michael Farkas, called the proceedings a formality. Castro is next due back in court Sept. 18.

The minor charges allege Castro lied during a city Board of Elections hearing over whether he knew nine family members were registered to vote out of his one-bedroom apartment during his run for office in 2008. If convicted, he faces upwards to 7 years in prison, although that is unlikely because of his cooperation in the sting operation. Gov. Cuomo could call for a special non-partisan election to fill Castro’s seat in the 86th A.D. covering University Heights, Tremont and south Fordham – or could, as some have suggested, fold the special election into the general mayoral and City Council election in November.

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