NEW YORK, USA, Wednesday October 31, 2012 – A Guyana-born Queens politician was slapped with federal fraud charges last week for allegedly using straw donors to fatten his campaign coffers in order to receive matching city funds — and threatening the bogus contributors who cooperated with investigators.
Albert Baldeo, the Democratic district leader in the Richmond Hill section, allegedly did the end-around campaign finance laws during his failed bid in 2010 to win an open seat on the City Council, the New York Daily News reported.
Baldeo allegedly “fabricated contributions to his campaign in order to receive six dollars in matching funds for every dollar he raised,” according to Mary Galligan, the FBI’s acting assistant director in New York.
“These were nothing more than funds drawn from his own bank account, disguised as donations from others,” Galligan explained.
The 52-year-old Guyana-born lawyer was reportedly picked up on the feds’ radar when he submitted filings claiming a campaign war chest of US$46,019 that were littered with phoney contributions.
Baldeo really fouled-up when he claimed he’d received a $95 donation from a Christopher O’Hearn, who was the campaign treasurer for another city council candidate, Charles Bilal.
On realising that the feds were investigating, Baldeo “told straw donors to lie to our agents and in some cases threatened and intimidated others in a vain attempt to derail the FBI’s investigation,” Galligan said.
“Baldeo was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances,” US Attorney Preet Bharara said.
Baldeo turned himself in on Wednesday and was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, attempting to commit mail fraud, conspiring to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.
Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail.
Baldeo, who is being prosecuted by the federal Public Corruption Unit, wound up losing the special election to fill the seat to Ruben Wills.