Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Businessman busted in donation scheme to aid Lt. Gov. Benjamin’s comptroller bid

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A Harlem businessman and attorney was arrested Friday for allegedly orchestrating a scheme to funnel illegal campaign contributions to Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s failed bid for city comptroller this year. 

The attorney, Gerald Migdol, made contributions by money order in names that were not his own and reimbursed donors who gave money to a comptroller candidate from 2019 to 2021, according to the indictment that was unsealed Friday. 

The candidate was not named in the indictment, but records show Benjamin was the only politician who filed a certification with the city Campaign Finance Board in September 2019, a timeframe which is included in the charging documents. 

City officials confirmed to The Post that details in the indictment matched filings from Benjamin’s campaign. 

As part of the scheme, Migdol was hoping to push the candidate over the threshold to unlock taxpayer-funded matching funds during the campaign, according to the indictment. 

Migdol was brazen about the straw donations he solicited, prosecutors allege. 

In a January 2020 email that’s included in the indictment, Migdol sought a $250 contribution from an unnamed donor whom he allegedly later reimbursed. 

“I need you to do me a favor. I need a check for $250 for [Candidate -1]’s campaign for NYC Comptroller next year. See the attached form that needs to be filled out. Come to my office Monday if you can,” Migdol wrote, according to the indictment. 

Migdol then quickpaid the unidentified donor $1,000 two days later — and a $125 donation was made in their name to the comptroller candidate that same day, prosecutors charged. 

In November 2019 and July 2020, an unidentified person, working at the direction of Migdol, made dozens of contributions to the campaign in names of individuals who had not authorized the donations, according to the feds.

Benjamin, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, won his seat to represent Harlem in the state Senate through a 2017 special election to replace Bill Perkins, the now-outgoing city councilman

Gov. Kathy Hochul named Benjamin as her lieutenant governor in August 2021. He did not immediately return a request for comment.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin
Benjamin was not named in the indictment, but records show he was the only politician who filed a certification with the city Campaign Finance Board in September 2019.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Migdol, 71, was arrested Friday morning and hit with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges, authorities said. He faces a maximum of 42 years in prison if convicted. 

Attorney information for him was not immediately available. He is expected to make an initial court appearance Friday.

In a statement, Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams said his office will continue to investigate campaign fraud.

“Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy, and campaign finance regulations are one way communities seek to ensure everyone plays by the same rules,” he said, adding that “my office remains vigilant against such attempts to defraud the public.”

Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan



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