Robert Garcia, the Bronx congressman who resigned his seat after he was convicted of extorting payoffs from the Wedtech Corp., was sentenced Friday to three years in prison.
His wife, Jane Lee Garcia, who was convicted of the same charges, received the same sentence.
“You yielded to the temptation of betraying your office so you and your wife might enjoy a higher life style,” U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand said.
Sand conceded that Garcia’s crimes were less than those of others convicted in the Wedtech scandal, but he said that Garcia had to spend some time in prison as a deterrent and as an example.
The judge ordered that the former Democratic congressman and his wife both be eligible for parole after serving six months.
Sand did not fine the Garcias after their attorneys said they were destitute and recently had lost even their Bronx apartment.
Garcia said in a statement that he accepted the jury’s verdict and apologized to his former constituents. “I never tried deliberately to harm them,” he said.
The Garcias were the last major defendants tried in the extensive corruption scandal at Wedtech, the now-defunct South Bronx defense contractor.
Evidence at the trials showed that Wedtech, once a small machine shop, grew into a multimillion-dollar defense contractor through various bribe schemes. The company collapsed in 1986 amid allegations of corruption.
A jury, in a verdict returned Oct. 20, found that the Garcias had extorted $76,000 from Wedtech from 1984 to 1986 in return for helping it in its efforts to obtain government contracts. They were also found to have received from Wedtech a $20,000 interest-free loan, which was channeled through Garcia’s sister.
Garcia and his wife each faced up to 45 years in prison and a fine of $750,000 for their convictions on three counts of conspiracy and extortion.
Garcia, 57, who had represented the South Bronx in Congress for 12 years, resigned his House seat earlier this month. He was the former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Coalition.
He was the second Bronx congressman convicted in the Wedtech scandal. In 1988, former U.S. Rep. Mario Biaggi, a Democrat, was convicted of racketeering charges and was sentenced to eight years.