MANHATTAN (CN) – Former New York State Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr. was sentenced to seven years in prison Tuesday after pleading guilty to paying more than half a million dollars worth of personal expenses through nonprofit organizations.
Gonzalez, who represented the Bronx, admitted last year that during his time in office, between October 1999 and January 2005, he directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to the Bronx-based Pathways for Youth.
He also admitted to paying personal expenses with money from two other nonprofits, the West Bronx Neighborhood Association and the United Latin American Foundation.
Prosecutors say the West Bronx Neighborhood Association “did not engage in any substantial amount of not-for-profit activity,” adding that Gonzalez’s “criminal associates” also benefitted from the money given to Pathways.
Gonzalez, 62, directed $200,000 to Pathways, which also took in more than $100,000 from other donors and in turn gave more than $400,000 to the West Bronx organization and more than $150,000 to the United Latin American Foundation, according to the filing.
Prosecutors say Gonzalez used the scheme to pay more than $500,000 of his expenses, including New York Yankees tickets, jewelry, clothing, college tuition for his daughter, rent for a home in Monroe, N.Y., and expenses related to his privately owned cigar company.
Gonzalez also used the foundation’s funds to subsidize his family’s homes and vacations in the Dominican Republic, including membership fees for a vacation club, rent for “a luxury apartment” that his wife used, and construction and renovations to a house that his mother-in-law used, officials said.
In addition to his prison sentence, Gonzalez will have to forfeit $737,775 and serve two years of supervised release.
New York City’s Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement the “seminal case” against Gonzalez exposed a ring of fraud and self-dealing in state-funded nonprofits and led to the creation of a nonprofit fraud unit and “numerous significant prosecutions.”
“This prison sentence is a just result for a one-time state senator who looted hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on his own lavish lifestyle,” Hearn said. “Steak dinners, premium Yankees tickets and a steady supply of cash came at the expense of the constituents this former public official pledged to represent. His deception had broad reach: from exploiting donors at a non-profit fundraiser merely to satisfy his gluttony for money, to manipulating his senate staff to further his crimes.”