Should Corrupt Politicians Keep Their Government Pensions? Manhattan US Attorney Says No

 Suppose an elected government official is convicted of corruption. Should the official be able to receive his or her government pension – perhaps while in prison? Many people think not. Apparently, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York agrees with that view.

Preet Bharara has just filed applications for orders forfeiting pension benefits, and the service of discovery requests seeking to locate benefits paid, regarding four former local New York officials who recently were convicted of corruption offenses.

Bharara said that his goal is “to prevent corrupt elected officials from continuing to benefit from pensions paid for by the very people they betrayed in office.” He said that he is “committed to using every legal tool to take the profit out of crime, and that includes preventing public money from being used to fund the comfortable retirement of corrupt officials. This is what justice and common sense require."

The cases involve former New York City Council members Miguel Martinez, Larry Seabrook, and Hiram Monserrate, and former Yonkers, New York, City Council member Sandy Annabi, who were convicted of corruption offenses between 2009 and 2012. On December 15, 2009, Martinez was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment and ordered to forfeit $106,000. On January 8, 2013, Seabrook was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment and ordered to forfeit $418,252.53. On December 11, 2012, Monserrate was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment and ordered to forfeit $79,434.49. On November 19, 2012, Annabi was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment and ordered to forfeit $1,270,302.99. To date, prosecutors contend, none of these defendants has made a single payment toward their respective forfeiture obligations.

According to prosecutors, Martinez and Seabrook currently are vested members of the New York City Employee Retirement System; Seabrook currently receives benefits, while Martinez will be eligible to receive benefits when he reaches the age of 57. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed applications for orders forfeiting Martinez and Seabrook’s right to pension benefits until their forfeiture judgments are fully paid. Monserrate and Annabi are believed to have terminated their pension memberships and received payments as a result. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also has served discovery requests on Monserrate and Annabi seeking to locate benefits that have been paid to them in order to satisfy the outstanding forfeiture judgments against them.

 Contact the author at smeyerow@optonline.net

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