Bronx Corruption Bust: Assemblyman Peter Rivera Ally Charged

Peter Rivera.jpg
Bronx Assemblyman Peter Rivera
Another politically-connected Bronx figure was charged with corruption today, and the case of not-for-profit big David Griffiths could serve as Exhibit One under the heading "Reporters Gets Action."

Griffiths, 65, surrendered this morning to federal authorities after being charged with lying to a grand jury probing his Bronx non-profit group.

The group isn't identified in the 21-page complaint released by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara today. Neither is Griffith's powerful political backer, who is described only as a lawyer-assemblyman who steered more than $1.2 million in state funds to Griffith's group to fix up a building that was never used.

But to fill in the blanks, just take a look at a May, 2009 story by the Daily News' Robert Gearty and Barbara Ross, detailing how an organization with the tangled name of Neighborhood Enhancement for Training Services (NETS), got a steady stream of public money courtesy of its ally, Assemblyman Peter Rivera.

In addition to Griffiths, who served as Rivera's campaign treasurer, the News reported that the non-profit also employed Rivera's son and the treasurer of his political club. At the time, Rivera defended the group, telling the News that the group was "very worthwhile," offering after-school programs and senior-citizen assistance.

But according to a 21-page complaint written by FBI Special Agent Anthony Fiorini, the group was cut off by state officials after it failed to file required tax returns. The complaint also reports that the assemblyman told FBI agents that Griffiths runs his law office and apparently has his total trust: "The Assemblyman often signs blank checks for Griffiths and has delegated all financial matters concerning the company and the law firm to Griffiths," the complaint states.

The trouble seems to have started when investigators asked for minutes of the group's board meetings. At that point, Griffiths is alleged to have made what the feds call "materially false statements and misrepresentations," including offering allegedly bogus minutes.

The charges come just a week after Rivera was telling Bronx reporters that he was up for a big job with Andrew Cuomo's administration. Rivera told the News' Bob Kappstatter that he'd been approached by people "close to the governor." Sounding like he was in the cat-bird seat, job-wise, Rivera put on the hard-sell: "I don't know if I want to go anywhere. I'm not in a rush and I don't need a paycheck."

This is probably just as well, since today's arrest of Griffiths probably doesn't enhance his job prospects.

Rivera refused to discuss the case, relaying a statement through a spokesman that he had no statement. "Mr. Griffiths is not associated with the Albany or New York City office of Mr. Rivera," said a Rivera spokesman. "And Mr. Griffith didn't hold a leadership position with Mr. Rivera, so Mr. Rivera does not have a comment."

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