(CN) – Former New York state Sen. Vincent Leibell will serve 21 months in prison for interfering with the grand jury that was investigating allegations of corruption and several years of tax evasion.
Leibell, a Republican who resigned from his state Senate seat last December, has been under investigation by a federal grand jury, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service since April 2010. Leibell is suspected of extorting cash payments from attorneys in Putnam County, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
He pleaded guilty to the obstruction and tax-evasion charges at hand in December.
Prosecutors said one of Leibell’s extortion victims represented a nonprofit group that received millions in member-item grants Leibell sponsored in state Senate. Leibell told the attorney he would block payment by the nonprofit for legal services rendered unless the attorney paid half of what he was owed to Leibell in cash.
With 28 years in public office under his belt, Leibell found out that investigators were questioning witnesses and directed the attorney to lie to the FBI.
Prosecutors said Leibell told the attorney: “You and I say there was never any cash relationship. Period. … Since you and I are in agreement, it didn’t happen. … All I know is, as long as you and I are consistent, I’m fine, you’re fine. There was never any cash between you and I, OK?”
Leibell told the attorney, who is not named in court documents, to tell agents he had withdrawn money to take care of his aging mother and as an emergency precaution in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Leibell also admitted that he had not reported at least $43,000 in cash payments on his taxes from 2003 to 2006.
U.S. District Judge Warren Eginton ordered three years of supervised release after Leibell gets out of prison, as well as a $4,000 fine.