Alfonso Portillo, Former President of Guatemala, Gets U.S. Noriega Treatment

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It's not often that a former president of an entire nation is extradited to the United States on criminal charges, but that happened today as the feds took custody of former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo on money-laundering charges.

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Comptroller John Liu Gives Back His Campaign's Dirty Cash

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With the primaries in four months, this is probably a good idea.

By now, the controversy over John Liu's run for comptroller in 2010 is an old wives' tale in recent New York City scandal history. His campaign's treasurer and one of its fundraisers set up straw donors--which is when a person illegally taps into another person's cash funds and makes donations in their name. By doing so, they paid themselves thousands in fraudulent kickbacks. But don't worry: Kustice was served earlier this month when the two were found guilty of campaign fraud in federal court.

As damage control, Liu has been trying to distance himself from that story since it happened, stating time and time again that he had no part in the scheme and could not have known about it. Naturally, the mayoral race has kicked that PR effort into high gear. According to his most recent campaign filings, it's been discovered that Liu refunded every cent in his fundraising treasure chest left over from the scandal.

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After Helping The FBI, Former State Senator Shirley Huntley Still Gets Slapped With A Year In Prison

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At the end of last August, former State Senator Shirley Huntley called for a press conference in her home district of Jamaica, Queens. There, she informed her supporters that she would be arrested the following day for an extensive criminal investigation into her personal expenses.

Turns out, between 2007 and 2008, Huntley was embezzling $90,000 through an educational non-profit she set up to spend on herself, her family and her friends. And the FBI knew all about it. So yesterday, Huntley was handed her sentence: a year and a half in state prison.

She begged the judge for a more lenient term, arguing "that you give me another chance. I vow to spend my remaining years to redeem myself in the eyes of those I have embarrassed." This sentence even comes after Huntley agreed to help the Gmen with an action that could lead to a whole new row of scandal.

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Along With Anti-Bribery Measures, Gov. Cuomo Proposes Election Reform

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Might as well use this recent scenario to hit two birds with one stone.

Last week, Governor Cuomo announced the Public Trust Act. The bill, which came in the wake of the scandals that rocked New York politics this month, would expand the powers given to state bribers to locate and detain those involved in bribery. It would also make it much easier for a prosecutor to bring a case against this type of corruption. It was Albany's reaction to the Holleran/Smith and Stevenson controversies, both of which gave the public a rough glimpse into the dirty world of money and politics.

Moving beyond that, the governor has used the opportunity for something else. At a press conference yesterday, Cuomo proposed another idea he's been talking about for a while now (with the backing of President Obama's Organizing for America squad, too): reforming the means by which we elect our representatives in New York state.

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Cuomo Introduces "The Public Trust Act" After Last Week's Scandal Fest

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Last week, New York government, on both a city and state level, bore witness to corruption in its purest form.

In a matter of days, a mayoral rigging scheme was uncovered that involved the City Council, the State Assembly, and business interests. And then we found out about yet another plan in the Assembly that involved wire-tapping, bribing and, once again, business interests. The Halloran/Smith and Stevenson/Castro debacles revived a question that has driven New York politics for years: is it really that driven by money?

Well, in any sort of political scandal pile-up, the government has to make it seem like it's doing something. That's your cue, Cuomo.

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Halloran/Smith Scandal Quickly Becomes Latest Mayoral Drama for Quinn

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As you may have heard yesterday, City Councilman Dan "America's Top Heathen" Halloran is in a whole lot of trouble.

Along with state Senator Malcolm Smith, the two were involved in a rigging scheme that planned to posit Smith as a Democrat switching over to the Republican side to run for mayor of New York. We're talking bribery, envelopes filled with a whole ton of cash, real estate tycoons' funds, and your classic FBI mole. So mark it down as the archetypal tale of New York City corruption.

And, of course, it happened during an election year, which begs the question: who's the closest indirect candidate to this story? Well, Halloran was a fan of Joe Lhota and one of the linked schemers was an advisor to John Catsimatidis and even served as counsel for his company, Gristedes.

But, besides that, being the head of the council that Halloran called home for a few years home has provided more than enough flak for many of Christine Quinn's Democratic rivals.

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"America's Top Heathen" Dan Halloran Arrested in Sweeping Political Bribery Investigation

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New York City's most colorful councilman nabbed in bribery scandal.
The outline of the story is bizarre enough in its own right: A Democratic state senator plans to run for mayor of New York City as a Republican, and attempts to bribe GOP county leaders to support his effort, only to be arrested and charged when it turns out the real estate tycoon financing his bribery plan is actually an undercover FBI agent.

That's the scenario sketched out in the federal complaint against state Sen. Malcolm Smith and five others unsealed by prosecutors this morning. The whole document is worth reading--there's plenty of juicy material in the charges, which are full of secret parking-lot meetings, phony real estate deals, mail fraud, and more.

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Alan Hevesi Paroled; Told to Avoid Criminals. Return to New York Politics Officially Illegal

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Former New York State/City Comptroller Alan Hevesi will soon be a free man.
Corrupt former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi was paroled today after serving 19 months of a four-year prison sentence for pocketing more than $1 million in benefits in a pension fund scam that ended the career of the longtime pol.

And because the terms of Hevesi's parole require him to avoid hanging around with other criminals, a return to New York politics is now virtually impossible/officially illegal.

Read the terms of Hevesi's parole below:

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Former Assemblyman Jimmy Meng to Cop Plea in Fruit-Basket Bribery Case

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Gregory Mango
Jimmy Meng following his initial court appearance. Minutes after this photo was taken, Meng called the star witness against him.
A fruit basket is a lovely way to show appreciation. But when it's filled with $80,000 in cash, and it's in "appreciation" of bribing prosecutors, it's not a gesture of gratitude, it's a felony.

So goes the tragic tale of former Assemblyman Jimmy Meng -- the first Asian-American elected to the New York State Assembly will plead guilty this afternoon to bribery charges stemming from his dopey scheme to bribe prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to achieve a favorable sentence for a man accused of tax fraud.

The terms of the apparent deal are unknown. But, as initially charged, Meng faces up to 20 years in prison.

As we reported in August, Meng was indicted in July on fraud charges stemming from the alleged bribery scam. What makes the case somewhat comical is that no bribery ever took place; those "prosecutors" Meng claimed he planned on bribing don't exist. His plan apparently was just to pocket the fraudster's $80,000.



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