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N.Y. Senator Pocketed $14M, A.G. Says

ALBANY (CN) - New York Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr., his family and aides funneled more than $14 million from the Democrat's health care nonprofit to pay for meals, vacations and campaign expenses, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo claimed Tuesday in Supreme Court.

The 51-page lawsuit seeks to remove Espada from his post as president of the nonprofit he founded, Comprehensive Community Development Corp., which does business as Soundview and runs clinics in the Bronx using federal and state money.

Cuomo also wants the nonprofit's board removed, claiming it was stacked with Espada's friends and family who approved millions worth of inappropriate contracts, including a $9 million severance package for Espada that would basically bankrupt the nonprofit when activated. The lawsuit likened the severance to a "100 percent bonus guaranteed every year."

"Through excessive compensation packages, abuse of corporate credit cards, self-dealing and other abuses, Espada has grossly profited himself, his family and his loyal supporters and advanced his own political ambitions at the cost of millions of dollars to the patients of Soundview and the taxpayers of New York State," the lawsuit states. "In essence, Mr. Espada has used Soundview as a personal piggybank."

According to the complaint, Espada racked up more than $250,000 in personal charges on his Soundview corporate American Express card, "which were passed off as legitimate Soundview business expenses," the complaint states.

The money included $80,000 in restaurant bills, which included more than 200 meals from a sushi place that regularly delivered to the Espada home in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

The money also went to fund family trips to Las Vegas, Miami and Puerto Rico, the lawsuit states.

Espada also was accused of getting 14 weeks paid leave per year valued at $75,000, which was then offset by "personal expenses" on his limitless corporate credit card.

Cuomo also says Espada misused more than $100,000 worth of campaign expenses from his 2008 campaign.

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