Democratic New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin surrendered to federal authorities Tuesday on federal charges he took part in a campaign finance scheme related to a 2021 campaign.
Benjamin, a former New York state senator from Harlem, faces federal bribery charges after authorities say he allegedly funneled fraudulent donations from a Harlem real estate investor, Gerald Migdol, into his failed 2021 campaign for New York City comptroller, according to The Associated Press (AP).
BREAKING: Lt. Gov. Benjamin Arrested in Campaign Finance Scheme https://t.co/tWTHdAoyoV
— Benjamin Weiser (@BenWeiserNYT) April 12, 2022
Federal authorities charged Migdol in November 2021 with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection to the illegal campaign donation he gave Benjamin’s failed comptroller campaign, the outlet reported.
At Migdol’s November arrest, Benjamin’s office released a statement promising the lieutenant governor was assisting authorities with the federal 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, reported NBC4. “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 Benjamin — which include wire fraud, bribery and falsification of records — stem from an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to the New York Times.
Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul picked Benjamin in September to join her administration as the second black Lt. Gov. of New York after former Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned, the AP reported. (RELATED: Kathy Hochul Sworn In As New York’s First Female Governor As Cuomo Leaves In Disgrace)
Hochul denied knowing about any potential wrongdoing by Benjamin, despite reports indicating Benjamin had been given subpoenas for financial records regarding the donations before Hochul chose him as her second-in-command, the outlet reported.
Hochul told the press Thursday she still has faith in Benjamin. “I have utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor,” Hochul said, according to the AP. “This is an independent investigation related to other people and he’s fully cooperating. He is my running mate.”