New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin resigned on Tuesday after being hit with bribery and fraud charges for allegedly directing state funds toward a real estate developer in exchange for campaign contributions.
Benjamin, 45, second in command to Gov. Kathy Hochul, resigned hours after federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment and arrested him on federal bribery charges.
Hochul said on Tuesday evening that she had accepted his resignation, and that he was stepping down immediately “while the legal process plays out.” She handpicked Benjamin for the lieutenant governor’s job last August.
“It is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as lieutenant governor,” she wrote in a statement. “New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them.”
Prosecutors said Benjamin in 2019 directed a $50,000 state grant to a nonprofit controlled by the developer from the Harlem section of Manhattan, which Benjamin represented at the time as a state senator.
The developer then sent Benjamin’s reelection campaign thousands of dollars through several checks in the names of relatives and a limited liability company, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said the developer also raised money for Benjamin’s unsuccessful 2021 run to become New York City’s comptroller.
“Taxpayer money for campaign contributions. Quid pro quo. This for that. That’s corruption,” said Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. “Public corruption remains a problem in New York. It is a bipartisan problem. It is an ongoing problem.”
The Harlem real estate developer was not identified by name in the indictment.
Just over two months after Benjamin became lieutenant governor, real estate developer Gerald Migdol was criminally charged with steering illegal campaign contributions to an unnamed candidate for city comptroller. Migdol pleaded not guilty.
Benjamin faces charges including bribery, wire fraud, and falsification of records. His case and Migdol’s are in the same case file.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona Wang released Benjamin on a $250,000 bond, and imposed travel restrictions that left him unable to travel to Albany, New York’s state capital, without permission from authorities.
“As alleged, Brian Benjamin used his power as a New York state senator to secure a state-funded grant in exchange for contributions to his own political campaigns,” Williams said in a statement. “By doing so, Benjamin abused his power and effectively used state funds to support his political campaigns.”
“Exploiting one’s official authority by allocating state funds as part of a bribe to procure donations to a political campaign, and engaging in activity to cover up the bribe, is illegal,” said FBI New York Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll.
Benjamin has a court appearance scheduled for April 19.
Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times