Friday, June 25, 2010
Brooklyn"s Fruit Loop Senator Kruger Involved in 'pay to play'
Pol eyed in bribe scandal
Brooklyn 'pay to play'
By JANON FISHER and RICH CALDER
Last Updated: 1:22 PM, June 25, 2010
An Albany politician from Brooklyn is the focus of a pay-to-play probe into whether he and a staff member offered his political muscle to locals in exchange for campaign donations, prosecutors revealed yesterday. A lawyer for one of the pol's alleged middlemen -- who was in Brooklyn federal court yesterday charged with lying to the FBI in connection with the probe -- refused to cooperate in the two-year probe of state Sen. Carl Kruger, who represents portions of southern Brooklyn, sources said. Michael Levitis, the alleged middleman, is the owner of a notorious Brooklyn nightclub, Rasputin. Sources, yesterday confirmed that Kruger, a Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is the "public official" accused of accepting kickbacks, saying Levitis is facing federal charges only because "he refused to testify against Senator Kruger." Levitis "is a very small part of a very significant criminal investigation," sources told The Post. "There is an allegation of quid pro quo between the senator and his constituents."
Levitis, who's also a lawyer, was caught on audiotape on April 14, 2009, telling a federal informant that the informant needed to pay off a public official's staff member to get assistance on an upcoming business inspection. "To start off, you'll have to throw in a few thousand . . . and then he solves your problem . . . depends on whether the problem is big or small . . . how much work he has put in," Levitis said. The informant is instructed by Levitis that he'll "have to do a fund-raiser for" the official. The informant agreed and, on the FBI's instruction, recorded another conversation with Levitis on April 22, 2009. During that meeting, the informant agreed to give Levitis $3,000 -- $2,000 for the official's staffer and the rest for Levitis. The transaction was made five days later and caught on video. Prior to the exchange, the informant asked Levitis if a fund- raiser was still needed. Levitis said, "So far you don't need" it, but, "God forbid, if you are going to have problems . . . then you'll have to do it."
On Jan. 6, Levitis was confronted at his Brooklyn home by the FBI and de nied ever discussing a fund-raiser with the informant. He was then told he could be charged with a felony for lying to the FBI but stuck to his story, the complaint says. Called for comment yesterday, Kruger referred a reporter to Senate Democratic majority spokesman Austin Shafran, who said Kruger was "a victim of an influence-peddling scam perpetrated by [Levitis]." He said Kruger had no knowledge of the "fraudulent statements" made by the Levitis camp.
Kruger reported having $2.1 million in his campaign account as of January, giving him one of the largest political war chests in the state. Levitis is one of Kruger's many generous donors. He cut $7,300 in campaign checks to the senator in 2008, including $3,800 in in-kind contributions for food and catering, records show. Levitis' lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman said Levitis has previously hosted fund-raisers for the senator.