Queens Official Faces 40 Years for Election Fraud

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Former New York state Sen. Hiram Monserrate pleaded guilty Friday to diverting more than $100,000 in city funds toward his failed 2006 election bid.
     Monserrate had campaigned for the state Senate’s 13th District while serving as a New York City councilman since 2002. After losing in 2006, he ran unopposed in 2008 but was expelled the following year after he was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend.
     Prosecutors took issue with Monserrate’s use of discretionary city funding in the 2006 campaign. The funds were meant to support local initiatives by community-based, nonprofit organizations within the councilman’s Queens district.
     One of the nonprofits Monserrate selected to receive these funds was the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment (LIBRE).
     The Queens-based nonprofit received $300,000 in discretionary funds between 2005 and 2006 from Monserrate, who then used approximately a third of the money to finance his state Senate campaign.
     Most of the $109,000 went toward a voter-registration drive, a petition drive, canvassing, employee salaries and other payments. LIBRE workers received thousands of dollars to campaign for Monserrate in the months before the election.
     After providing Monserrate’s campaign with the information gathered through its voter-registration drive, LIBRE “deliberately delayed providing the same information to the New York State Board of Elections until shortly before the voting deadline,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
     This gave Monserrate an unfair advantage in the campaign by being the only candidate aware of the individuals LIBRE registered to vote.
     “In the summer of 2006, LIBRE sent databases containing the names and contact information for over 1,000 Queens residents gathered through its voter registration drive to members of Monserrate’s campaign team,” according to the indictment.
     U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that “1,000 voter registrations was significant” because the election turned on a narrow margin.
     Monserrate, 44, of Jackson Heights, Queens, faces 40 years after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of mail fraud.
     He is scheduled to be sentenced by U. S. District Judge Colleen McMahon on Sept. 14, 2012.

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