Congressman Michael Grimm turned himself into authorities this morning and will face federal charges. While the Republican politician has been dogged by a federal probe into his campaign fundraising for several years, it appears the charges to be unveiled today are connected to a restaurant he operated before entering Congress, and is separate from the campaign investigation.
The Washington Post reports:
While the investigation has focused on Grimm’s fundraising, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch is expected to announce an indictment centered on his restaurant business, which Grimm launched after leaving the FBI in 2006, according to officials familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the pending charges.
The state fined the Upper East Side restaurant, Healthalicious, $88,000 for not providing workers compensation. In a lawsuit against the company, workers accused the owners of not paying proper wages and sometimes giving out cash payments to skirt tax and business laws.
It is unclear whether federal prosecutors will eventually expand the charges to encompass Grimm’s campaign activities, but investigators have been moving on that side of the case against several key players, some with ties to the restaurant.
The company itself appears to have ties to persons involved in the fundraising probe. The operating company run by Grimm was connected to a company affiliated with Ofer Biton, the Israeli national who pleaded guilty to visa fraud. Biton not only helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Grimm, he reportedly sought the politician’s help in obtaining a green card.
Biton also served as the middle man between Grimm and popular Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, who helped raise money for Grimm’s 2010 campaign, and who is now facing allegations of bribing Israeli law enforcement officials and looting his charities.
The business’ accountant was also the accountant for Grimm’s campaign, and was a key witness before the federal grand jury in the case. While the indictment is expected to surround the business, the Daily News reports that the alleged financial irregularities are also linked to the campaign.
The Daily News reports:
Wayne Muratore answered questions about suspicious expense claims and tax documents just days before the panel opted to charge Grimm after a two-year federal probe, the sources said.
… The charges against Grimm are linked to alleged financial irregularities in the ex-FBI agent’s 2010 congressional run and to the eatery Healthalicious.
Muratore faces no criminal charges, but was visited several weeks ago by FBI officials and eventually grilled by prosecutors, the sources said.
He reportedly told the feds that certain expenses and tax documents linked to Grimm were not his work, the sources said.
Grimm, through an attorney, said that, ultimately, his name would be cleared, and he is expected to continue his campaign. New York Times reports:
Since word of his indictment emerged on Friday, Mr. Grimm has shown no sign of curbing his campaign. A lawyer for Mr. Grimm said he was the victim of a “politically driven vendetta.” And for now, party leaders are sticking with Mr. Grimm, whose district includes Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn.
John Antoniello, the Staten Island Republican chairman, said he spoke to Mr. Grimm on Friday, and Mr. Grimm said he definitely planned to continue his campaign.
Meanwhile, on Friday, prosecutors indicted Grimm’s former girlfriend, Diana Durand, on charges of using straw donors to make illegal campaign contributions to Grimm and other Republican politicians.
Grimm represents Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Coney Island and parts of Sheepshead Bay.