State Senator Carl Kruger is the target of an FBI corruption probe, in which the bureau alleges his office traded official favors for campaign contributions. The case involves several local restaurants, including Rasputin, which were asked to hold fundraisers in return for help in attaining permits.
The Daily News reports:
The two-year probe surfaced in public Thursday when the FBI charged Brooklyn lawyer Michael Levitis with lying to agents about his dealings with Kruger’s staffer.
Levitis is also the owner of Rasputin’s, a popular supper club in the Russian community of Brighton Beach.
Sources and an affidavit by FBI agent Kenneth Hosey said another restaurateur – who was secretly cooperating with the FBI – went to Levitis to complain about his problems with the State Liquor Authority.
At least three times in April 2009 the unidentified informant caught Levitis on tape claiming Kruger’s office would be helpful – but only if he raised funds for the senator, according to the affidavit.
“He solves these kinds of problems?” the informant asked. “But then you’ll have to do a fund-raiser for him. At your place,” Levitis replied, adding: ‘You remember how. … You were there when [another business owner] did it.”
A source familiar with the investigation said the FBI interviewed more than a dozen restaurant and catering hall owners in Kruger’s district, asking if the senator had promised help for campaign funds.
It’s unclear what they found. Hosey said since the probe began in 2008, agents have conducted surveillance, deployed informants, analyzed phone records and recorded conversations.
Yesterday in Albany, Kruger, a Democrat, claimed he was not the target of the investigation, insisting, “I’m the victim in this whole scenario.”
“It’s not unusual for someone to claim that they have access to an elected officials that they really don’t have in order to gain monetary reward,” he said, insisting that he “fully cooperated” with the investigators.
In court papers, prosecutors say the informant paid Levitis $3,000 – $1,000 for Levitis and $2,000 to be given to an unidentified staffer in Kruger’s office. The transaction was captured on video.
On Sept. 18, Levitis told the informant he had just spoken with the staffer about this problems with the state agency.
Levitis says Kruger’s staffer “said that he called there. They moved the hearing back two weeks. … So for now, you can still work.”
But, he adds, “he asked that you do a fund-raiser for him.”
SLA spokesman William Crowley confirmed the informant’s restaurant faced multiple violations in September, including operating without a cabaret license.
Crowley said the owner paid a $3,500 fine and there was no evidence in agency files that Kruger or his staff contacted the SLA.
Records show Levitis donated $2,700 to Kruger in 2008. His restaurant, which boasts lavish facilities and elaborate displays for food, also gave Kruger $3,800 in in-kind contributions toward two fund-raisers in 2006 and 2008.