The U.S. Attorney’s office unveiled an updated indictment of State Senator John Sampson yesterday, growing the list of corruption allegations to include lying to the FBI about actions his office took to benefit a liquor store, of which he held secret ownership.
The U.S. Attorney’s office today announced that Mr. Sampson, who once led the Senate Democrats, is accused of “making false statements to FBI agents about directing members of his Senate staff to take actions to benefit a Brooklyn liquor store in which Sampson secretly held an ownership interest.”
According to prosecutors, Mr. Sampson was recorded hiding his stake in an unnamed liquor store in its license application.
“During a series of telephone calls that were captured on the Sampson Wiretap, the defendant … told the Partners that [his] ownership interest should not be disclosed in the Application” today’s indictment reads.
Mr. Sampson was also recorded instructing an anonymous government staffer to help the store deal with outstanding tax obligations. The senator even appeared to be aware of the potential illegalities involved, telling the staffer to “do it on your own cell phone and do it on your own time.”
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch’s office also accuses the senator of lying about the liquor store and his office’s involvement when speaking to federal agents.
An attorney for Sampson sought to downplay the charges, saying the senator has been “fully cooperative” in the investigation and that he “has not betrayed the public trust.”
“After years of investigation and two indictments, the government has not charged Senator Sampson with a crime relating to the misuse of his public office. The new charge in the superseding indictment simply alleges an unrecorded statement to an agent of the FBI, which the government chooses not to believe, with respect to a matter for which the government fails to charge any substantive crime,” the attorney said.
Following redistricting, Sampson’s district grew to represent a huge swath of the heart of Sheepshead Bay, between Avenue Y and Avenue U, from East 14th Street to Knapp Street.
Sampson is already facing charges unveiled in May 2013, after he was recorded by former State Senator Shirley Huntley, who turned into a cooperating witness after pleading guilty to stealing taxpayer money through a nonprofit organization. In the recorded conversation, Sampson allegedly sought Huntley’s advice after being approached by a businessman offering bribes for him in his business at JFK Airport.
Sampson was also accused of stealing $400,000 from the sales of foreclosed homes, and was charged with two counts of embezzlement, five counts of obstruction and two counts of making false statements to the FBI.
It was then alleged that the senator sought to silence witnesses in the case by requesting the witness list from a friend in the U.S. Attorney’s office so that he could “take them out.”
Later that same month, state officials began investigating the fate of more than $39,000 earmarked for a charity for inner city youth. While the taxpayer funds went to the group, the nonprofit was unable to provide records for how it was spent. Shortly after the organization received the funds, its leader and Senator Sampson opened the liquor store mentioned in yesterday’s indictment, Gateway Wine & Spirits, and the charity went defunct. The treasurer of the charity said he was never made aware by the group’s leader or the senators office of the $39,560 grant.
At the time, Sampson’s spokesman said that the senator had withdrawn his stake in the liquor store and that questions about it were “moot.”
The spokesperson also made statements at the time that are contrary to allegations made in yesterday’s indictment.
Times Union reported in 2013:
[The spokesperson] said no law enforcement officials had inquired about the matter.
“Why would they?” He asked. “We’re looking for storms in teacups, I suspect. The senator did what any senator, when their constituents petition them, would do.”
The investigation continued to expand in 2013, with three cases of campaign donations that appeared to vanish from Sampson’s accounts, and allegations that businessmen who lobbied his office were charged retainer fees for duties that are supposed to be part of his job as a legislator.