Ex-Councilman Miguel Martinez Gets Five Years

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Former Washington Heights City Councilman Miguel Martinez was sentenced to five years in prison this afternoon for stealing more than $100,000 in funds that were intended for non-profit groups in his district.

He pleaded guilty to criminal corruption charges after resigning abruptly from the City Council this summer. His arrest was part of a wider investigation into council members' use of discretionary funds to support nonprofit groups with which they had close ties.

Martinez admitted to approving false invoices and then receiving kickbacks from various groups. In one instance, he helped steer $163,000 to the Washington Heights Arts Center. With help from at least one employee, the group then provided Martinez with $15,000 that came directly from the organization's bank account.

Martinez also helped a developer colleague secure millions of dollars in tax breaks to build low-income housing in conjunction with a non-profit in his district. In exchange for the tax breaks, Martinez instructed the developer to donate money to the non-profit. Martinez then pocketed $40,000 of the $96,000 that was donated.

"Getting elected to the City Council was one of the proudest achievements of my life," Martinez told Judge Paul A. Crotty this afternoon (reported in the Times). "If I could change time, I would do things differently. However, I can't do that, You Honor."

Martinez had provided a wrenching letter to probation officials about how much remorse he was feeling, as Tom Robbins told us the other day.

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