ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN/AP) — New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has resigned in the wake of his arrest in a federal corruption investigation, creating a political crisis for Gov. Kathy Hochul seven months after she selected Benjamin as a partner to make a fresh start in an office already rocked by scandal.
Hochul says Benjamin resigned Tuesday.
New York State Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin was taken into custody on campaign finance charges. A press conference at noon unsealed an indictment charging Benjamin with bribery and related offenses.
NEWS10 has obtained a copy of the federal indictment from the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York. It alleges that Benjamin schemed to obtain campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for a $50,000 state grant. He reportedly offered his official authority and influence in the New York State Senate to funnel the funds.
The indictment characterized it as “a bribery scheme using public funds for his own corrupt purposes.” Take a look at the document below:
Benjamin, whose seven months in the role were overshadowed by probes into a previous campaign, was arrested Tuesday in a federal corruption investigation. The U.S. Attorney’s office said Benjamin was arrested on charges of bribery, honest services wire fraud, and falsification of records.
Formerly a state senator from New York City’s Harlem, Benjamin joined the administration of Gov. Hochul in September, chosen by her to fill her former job a couple of weeks after she stepped into the governorship following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo over sexual harassment allegations. But just over two months later, a real estate developer who steered campaign contributions toward Benjamin’s failed bid for New York City comptroller was indicted.
Federal authorities accused Gerald Migdol of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft in illegally giving donations to Benjamin’s campaign. Prosecutors had previously not made any accusations against Benjamin, and his campaign said at the time of Migdol’s arrest that it had forfeited any improper donations as soon as they were discovered.
More recently, reports came out saying subpoenas had been issued to Benjamin regarding the financial issues even before Hochul picked him as lieutenant governor. Despite her saying she didn’t know of the subpoenas at the time, Hochul proclaimed her support for Benjamin, and he said he had told state police as they went through the process of vetting him.
“I have utmost confidence in my lieutenant governor,” Hochul said during a Thursday press conference. “This is an independent investigation related to other people and he’s fully cooperating. He is my running mate.”
Benjamin was the state’s second Black lieutenant governor. During his state Legislature career, the Democrat emphasized criminal justice reform and affordable housing. His district included most of central Harlem, where he was born and raised by Caribbean immigrant parents. He has a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University and a master’s of business administration from Harvard Business School and worked as a developer of affordable housing.
According to the New York Times, Benjamin will be appearing in Manhattan federal court. He reportedly surrendered to authorities to face the charges in connection with a past campaign.
Requests for comment have not been returned by Benjamin’s office, Hochul’s office, or the office of State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Stick with WTEN for more on this story as it develops.