Feds Say Chief of Staff Defrauded Lawmaker’s Campaign

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – A former chief of staff for a New York assemblyman appeared before a federal judge Thursday on charges that he stole about $80,000 from the campaign war chest. 

Coffee cup in hand, Maruf Alam leaves Brooklyn federal court Thursday on $100,000 bond, signed by his mother. Alam, who was once chief of staff for New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, is charged with stealing $80,000 from Ortiz’s campaign funds over a period of several years. He’s accompanied by his attorney, Peter Guadagnino, in a blue tie. (Photo by AMANDA OTTAWAY/Courthouse News Service)

Slight of build and clad in a cornflower-blue Penn State T-shirt and jeans, Maruf Alam stood with his hands behind his back throughout the hearing, which elicited a guarded statement this afternoon from Assemblyman Felix Ortiz.

“I am just now being made aware of the charges against my staff member,” the Brooklyn Democrat said of 29-year-old Alam. “I do not have any further information, and cannot comment at this time.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket Bulsara released Alam on a $100,000 bond, signed in court by Alam’s mother, a nurse, who also put up her home in Kensington, which she’s still paying off. Alam lives there with her, they confirmed.

Alam spoke softly to the judge, standing alongside his attorney, Peter Guadagnino.

Initially filed under seal, the complaint notes that approximately $80,000 was withdrawn between 2012 and 2018, and a debit card associated with the account was mailed to Alam’s address in May 2018. At one point the campaign committee’s mailing address was that of Alam’s home, according to the complaint.

The FBI interviewed Ortiz about the withdrawals in March. FBI Special Agent Matthew Brigham notes in an affidavit that Ortiz described Alam as the volunteer treasurer for two campaign accounts and said he never authorized anyone to make cash withdrawals of $80,000 from the campaign account between January 2012 and April 2018.

The campaign also failed to file required disclosure reports in 2015, 2016 and during periods of 2014, an election year, according to the affidavit. Alam would have been in charge of filing such disclosures, Ortiz told the FBI.

“As alleged, Alam was caught red-handed using a New York state assemblyman’s campaign account as his personal piggy bank,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement Thursday. “Alam betrayed the trust placed in him to act honestly as the treasurer for the account, and then attempted to cover up his crime by filing false disclosure reports for years. Today’s arrest makes clear that dishonest public employees will face the consequences of their crimes and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Alam reportedly told authorities he could not find his passport and was ordered to turn it in if he does. His travel is restricted to New York’s southern and eastern districts, which encompass New York City, and New Jersey. 

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