Sheldon Silver, former New York state assembly leader, indicted on fraud charges

Sheldon Silver, the former head of New York assembly, has been indicted for fraud

A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Sheldon Silver, the powerful former leader of New York's state assembly, on charges that the legislator used his position and state funds to earn millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks for himself.

The indictment largely recaps the federal charges U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara's office filed against Silver, 71, in January, leading the assemblyman to resign his leadership post Feb. 2. The government also moved to seize property and bank accounts in Silver's name.

Representatives for Bharara and Silver's offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment. After Silver's arrest and release on $400,000 bail on Jan. 22, he told reporters he was "confident that after a full hearing and due process, I’ll be vindicated on the charges.”

The new indictment has three charges instead of the previous five. The allegations say Silver fraudulently avoided disclosing information about almost $4 million he made as a private attorney for two kickback schemes that traded on his influence in office.

In one of those schemes, the indictment says, Silver made more than $3 million in referral fees from a law firm in exchange for giving the firm the names of medical patients suffering from asbestos poisoning.

Investigators say Silver had no experience handling asbestos cases, "performed no work on the matters" and "had no contact" with the "highly lucrative" clients he referred to the law firm.

Instead, the indictment says, Silver got the patients' names from an unidentified but prominent doctor who ran a mesothelioma center in Manhattan and who also profited from Silver's scheme.

In exchange for giving Silver the patients' names, the indictment says, Silver secretly directed $500,000 in state funds to the doctor's research center and $25,000 to a nonprofit that had one of the doctor's family members on its board of directors.

In 2012, Silver also got one of the doctor's family members a job at a nonprofit that received millions of dollars in state funding, the indictment says.

On May 2011, Silver also sponsored and won a state resolution honoring the doctor, the indictment says.

In a separate scheme, the indictment says Silver earned $700,000 in "kickbacks" from a real-estate law firm in exchange for referring developers -- who were doing work for the state -- to the law firm.

Silver did not disclose the payments as required on a legislative financial disclosure form, the indictment says, and he hid information from his own legislative staff and the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, which was created and later controversially disbanded by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The indictment charges Silver with mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion.

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