.

Obstruction of Justice, Tax Evasion Net Leibell Jail Time

The 21-month prison sentence for ex-State Sen. Vincent Leibell III is near the maximum; the fine is at the minimum.

Former state Sen. Vincent L. Leibell III—found guilty on two federal counts of felony  corruption—will spend 21 months in federal prison, U.S. District Court Judge Warren Eginton ruled Tuesday.

Brushing aside prosecution appeals for more time and a defense bid for none at all, Eginton hewed closely to federal sentencing guidelines in meting out the punishmment, which also included a minimum fine and three years probation, with added special conditions.

Leibell sat stonily silent throughout the hour-long, three-act drama that played out before more than 50 quiet spectators in the Brieant Federal Court building’s ceremonial courtroom in White Plains.

Alternately slipping on his reading glasses, then taking them off, at times resting his face in his hands, Leibell, 64, seemed almost to sink into his navy suit as he sat to the left of defense lawyer David L. Lewis. Also seated as he read his sentencing statement, Lewis urged the judge to ignore a probation department recommendation of 21 months behind bars, contending that probation and public community service was a far more effective way for his client to expiate his sins.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry A. Carbone rejected that approach in his own closing statement.

“Mr. Leibell failed, and the system worked, because he got caught,” the prosecutor said. “Now it’s time to pay his debt.”

Under sentencing guidelines that were negotiated last December, Leibell, 64, faced imprisonment for up to two years after pleading guilty to felony charges of evading taxes and obstructing justice. 

Eginton fined him $4,000 and ordered him to serve three years of supervised release after his sentence. He has made restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

"Today's sentencing of former Senator Vincent Leibell ends a sad chapter in the history of Putnam County," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a press release. "It should serve as a sobering reminder to all public officials throughout New York State that no one is above the law."

The pleas came barely more than a month after the Patterson Republican’s election as Putnam County executive and abruptly ended a political career that included 28 years as a state legislator serving Putnam County and parts of Dutchess and Westchester counties.

It was as a state senator, prosecutors charged, that Leibell demanded kickbacks from two lawyers who represented his nonprofit senior housing organization and who also served as outside counsel to Putnam County.

One of those lawyers has been identified as Carl Lodes, who served as Putnam’s county attorney from 1991 until early 2008. Prosecutors say Leibell pressured both lawyers to kick back a portion of their legal fees, threatening to withhold payments for work performed or in Lodes’ case to cost him his job. Leibell, in court, admitted to receiving $43,000 in payments from the lawyers and failing to report that money as income.

In June 2010, FBI agents seized records held by the Putnam county attorney that related to the hiring of outside counsel. Aware that federal investigators were closing in, Leibell met on a Carmel street with Lodes, who had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury empaneled to probe corruption allegations.

Unaware that the lawyer was recording their conversation, prosecutors would later charge, Leibell ordered Lodes to lie about cash he’d withdrawn from his personal bank account and kicked back to the lawmaker.

Also in June, the FBI subpoenaed documents in Carmel related to legal services provided by the now-defunct Westchester law firm Servino, Santangelo & Randazzo, which was briefly the Carmel town counsel and which took in almost $2 million in legal work from Putnam County between 2000 and 2004.

The second lawyer in the corruption case, who has not been named, was identified only as a partner in a Westchester firm that agreed in 2000 to pay "consulting fees" to Leibell.

The first lawyer, Lodes, and his recording provided direct evidence of corruption, prosecutors said. They quoted Leibell as instructing Lodes to mislead investigators by saying the money he’d withdrawn was meant to provide support for Lodes’ elderly mother and emergency funds in the event of a 9/11-style terrorist attack.

“As long as you and I are consistent, I'm fine, you're fine," Leibell is quoted as saying in the recording. "There was never any cash between you and I, OK?" The recorded conversation, prosecutors said, was the underpinning for their obstruction of justice charge, one of two to which Leibell pleaded guilty last Dec. 6.

Since then, the court was flooded in a flurry of paper, including more than 100 letters of support for Leibell, a defense motion arguing the upside of not confining the disgraced lawmaker and, in a bizarre twist, a request from Leibell to serve, in lieu of prison, in one of the world’s trouble spots, Libya and Iraq among them.

“I have spoken with people in the court system and told them of my great willingness to serve during the current difficulties our nation is experiencing,” Leibell said in a letter to the judge.

Patty Villanova May 13, 2011 at 09:38 PM
This was a stunningly small price to pay for the millions of dollars "Uncle Vinnie" stole from the taxpayers of New York. To add insult to injury, his ill-gotten house was not confiscated, and he's able to keep a pension that many of us in the private sector would die for. Vinnie and the judge are members of the same club- elite politicians who are elected or appointed, who have become the new aristos of our culture. If any of us mere mortals had done half of what Leibell got away with, we would no doubt be facing decades in the slammer. Sorry, but this punishment was too little, too late.
Thomas N May 13, 2011 at 09:58 PM
He basically kept everything he stole! And are we taxpayers going to still send him his pension checks?
Louise Evans May 14, 2011 at 02:04 AM
Yes, we'll send him his pension checks. Isn't this a great state we live in? As SNL's Church Lady would say: "Isn't that special?"
Chauncy Tillinghast May 14, 2011 at 10:58 AM
Disgrace! Investigate the judge Preet! Vinnie will be out way before the sentence is up.
John Dickerson May 14, 2011 at 11:28 AM
The outrage over Leibell's continuing pension should be channelled into momentum for the effort Greg Ball is making to cancel pensions for New York State officials who criminally abuse their office. I'm surprised the court didn't do more to seize the man's lavish Putnam County house and other ill gotten gains.
Arthur Winoker May 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM
I could not agree more and if such legislation was passed, maybe more politicians would think twice before engaging in illegal acts- although in this country, you can do anything unless you are caught.
Bruce Cohen May 14, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Has this country sunk to such a low level that allows an ELECTED official to basically allowed circumvent laws that uf he was an average individual, would probably receive a MUCH stiffer sentence for. This is a prime example of different treatment doled out depending on his or her economic status. Something of this nature should bring a complete overhaul of our judicial system in regards to the severity of punishment an elected official receives, as he or she was voted in on the premise of TRUST by us, the residents of this country. I am greatly saddened that his sentence will probably be served in better surroundings than I currently live in. Shame on all of those who are responsible of the travesty of justice, although I hardly doubt they care. I just plain think it stinks of collusion.
elizabeth mclaughlin May 14, 2011 at 02:48 PM
I agree with the above posters. The example is Crime does pay. But it is High Crime. The Higher the Crime the more it pays. Look at Obama and his Judicial co-horts. The EU is ruling the State of New York and the people especially the highly educated do not realize it. So no wonder we do have what we have. It is time for a CHANGE. I do believe that Obama should be thrown out of office, the Clintons too, one big trial including the masses attached to Bush. The only person that I can see taking a stand in this EU IMF WTO UN mess is Ron Paul. At least he wants to audit the FED Reserve. It would be great if the State of New York resigns from doing any business with the FED, EU. The Rothchilds are crooks, the Rockefellers more crooking for control of humans through its foundations, eeeeee gads, it makes me sick. Did the Rockefellers develop a program on FEELING this way?
John Dickerson May 14, 2011 at 04:09 PM
To get some idea of the extent of Leibell's corruption and arrogance, have a look at the home the ex- Senator has built for himself http://fwixcdn.fwix.com/flickr/L097763c07c3daccdc808cf75de66958b.PNG Better yet, you get in your car and drive up to see it and express your sentiments to this "public servant" 1441 Route 22 # 205, Brewster, NY You can't miss it.
Chauncy Tillinghast May 14, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Ironic, Rockefeller made his money thru family "Big Oil". Now he is preaching to the "Oil Bigs"
elizabeth mclaughlin May 14, 2011 at 06:07 PM
I think that when the large accounting houses or whoever makes up accounting laws changed it opened up to criminal activity. It has reached the level of Federal ponzi and is clearly shown by Obamas bail outs. And, the crime continues with Soros aid and media mind control. I wonder if he will be under house arrest. It would not surprise me with the criminals running the show.
Francis T McVetty May 15, 2011 at 09:13 PM
A $4000 dollar fine? What about restitution? Was that ever considered by the judge? Does anyone know if District Court Judge Warren Eginton is elected or appointed?
Thomas N May 16, 2011 at 01:55 AM
I think the justice system is an absolute disgrace for the light treatment he received and the benefits he will still be able to collect. Our NYS legislators should be ashamed!

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something