A city councilman surrendered Tuesday to face federal charges that he tried to cheat the city of at least $2.5 million in council discretionary funds, funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to his girlfriend and relatives and charging the city $177 for a bagel sandwich.
The charges were contained in a Manhattan indictment against Councilman Larry Seabrook, a 58-year-old Democrat who has represented a Bronx council district since 2002 and who was once a state senator.
Seabrook is charged with receiving corrupt payments, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy. After pleading not guilty, Seabrook was released on $500,000 bail. His lawyer, Murray Richmond, said outside court: “We haven’t had a chance to analyze the indictment. We don’t concede a crime was committed.”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara noted an abundance of “For Sale” signs in the city as a result of the sputtering economy.
“City Hall should not be one of them,” he said.
One charge alleges that, between July 2006 and April 2009, Seabrook solicited $50,000 in payments from a Bronx boiler company executive after Seabrook lobbied the New York Yankees to select the company to furnish two boilers for $283,000 for the new Yankee Stadium.
Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion said the Yankees had cooperated fully with the probe and there was no knowledge of any wrongdoing by anyone in the team.
In recent years, federal authorities and the city’s Department of Investigation have been looking into how council members funnel money to nonprofits.
From 2002 through 2009, Seabrook tried to direct at least $2.5 million of council discretionary funds to nonprofit organizations that he controlled, the indictment alleged.
The indictment said Seabrook negotiated the nonprofit organizations’ leases, created their budgets, made their personnel decisions and knew the groups were not doing enough legitimate work to justify the funds.
It said he paid about $530,000 in salary and “consulting” fees over the seven-year span to his girlfriend, his brother, two sisters and his nephews, among others.
The indictment accused Seabrook of inflating the expenses of the organizations, including what they paid in rent, and of making other misrepresentations and material omissions to New York City and the council so he could continue funding the groups.
For instance, Seabrook submitted a number of forged or altered receipts, including a doctored receipt for a $7 bagel sandwich and diet beverage delivered to City Hall that made it look like it had cost about $177, the indictment said.
In all, Seabrook managed to get at least $1.2 million of the $2.5 million he requested for the organizations sent to them, the indictment said.
The court papers outlined numerous examples of misspent money, including $10,000 paid to one of Seabrook’s sisters for a “Fire Diversity/Recruitment Initiative” consultant report that amounted to six double-spaced pages written in a large font.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn said: “All of us in the City Council take the deeply troubling allegations against Council Member Larry Seabrook very seriously.”
Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said it was complicated to untangle Seabrook’s “breathtaking array of fraudulent schemes” resulting in his arrest only seven months after the arrest of another city councilman.
That ex-councilman, Miguel Martinez, was sentenced to five years in prison by a federal judge in Manhattan for stealing more than $100,000 in public funds since 2002.