(Source: FBI) - Earlier today, former Queens County assemblyman Jimmy Meng was arrested on a federal wire fraud charge for soliciting $80,000 in cash from a state court defendant and falsely claiming that he would use the money to bribe prosecutors in the New York County District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan to obtain a reduced sentence. According to the complaint, the government’s investigation uncovered no evidence that Meng actually contacted anyone in the District Attorney’s Office on the individual’s behalf but instead planned to keep the “bribe money” for himself. Meng is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack, at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.
The arrest was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As alleged in the federal criminal complaint, in 2011, a grand jury in Manhattan returned an indictment charging an individual with state tax crimes. Thereafter, the individual approached Meng and sought his advice and assistance in the case. Meng allegedly told the individual that several assistant district attorneys (ADAs) in the District Attorney’s Office had been assigned to the individual’s case, and if the individual paid them $20,000 each, the individual would be sentenced to one year in prison, a sentence substantially below the plea offer extended by the District Attorney’s Office. The individual is hereafter referred to as the “CW,” for cooperating witness.
According to the federal complaint, between December 2011 and July 2012, the CW, acting at the direction of FBI special agents, recorded numerous telephone calls and meetings with Meng which captured Meng discussing the charged bribe scheme. (All recorded conversations between the CW and Meng were doncuted in Manhattan and subsequently translated into English by law enforcement authorities.) For example, the complaint alleges that in January 2012, the CW met with Meng at Meng’s lumber yard in Queens. During the recorded conversation, Meng told the CW that if the CW received a sentence of more than two years in jail, Meng would return the CW’s money, except for a $2,000 errand fee: “I’ll be responsible. If [sic] didn’t get it done for you, right? Over three years, right? Over two years, right? Then just charge you $2,000—$2,000 for running errands and the rest—I take responsibility—will be returned to you completely.” Meng then instructed the CW to collect $80,000 in cash and conceal it in a basket of fruit, which Meng would arrange to have picked up. Meng told the CW that several ADAs were assigned to the CW’s case and that each of the ADAs had to agree on the resolution of the CW’s case for the bribe scheme to succeed. Meng explained that he had already initiated contact with the ADAs and told the CW that in order to ensure the secrecy of the purported bribe scheme, “You can never say in the future that Jimmy Meng helped me find people.”
The complaint further alleges that in February 2012, the CW met with Meng in a parking lot in Queens, where Meng discussed the bribe scheme. During this meeting, Meng claimed that an ADA who had refused to negotiate with the CW’s attorney must be paid bribe money. Meng also reiterated that the CW’s money would be paid to the ADAs and that if the CW received more than two years in prison, the CW’s money would be refunded. Subsequently, in July 2012, the CW placed a recorded telephone call to Meng the day before the CW was due to appear at a status conference in state court, and Meng told the CW that progress had been made on the case. Meng also told the CW that he would be contacting the “people on the other side” and reminded the CW not to tell the CW’s lawyer about Meng’s involvement in the case. On or about July 17, 2012, during a recorded telephone call, Meng told the CW to prepare the money and deliver it to Meng’s lumber yard. Meng told the CW, “Give it to me, and I will give it to them.”
Earlier today, under the surveillance of FBI agents, the CW met with Meng in the vicinity of Meng’s lumber yard in Queens. As directed by Meng, the CW brought a fruit basket containing thousands of dollars. After Meng accepted the fruit basket and the cash, he was placed under arrest by FBI special agents.
United States Attorney Lynch stated, “As alleged in the complaint, Jimmy Meng sought to be a power broker in the halls of justice. But the influence he sought to peddle was corrupt, and his power was illusory. This arrest confirms that justice is not for sale. We will vigorously prosecute anyone who seeks to undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system, whether through fraud or bribery.” Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the New York County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Fedarcyk stated, “Meng, as alleged in the complaint, promised he could reduce a defendant’s sentence, but only if they paid the right price and promised to keep Meng’s intentions a secret. As it turns out, Meng was only looking to pad his own pockets in the form of a bountiful fruit basket worth $80,000 in bribe money. This type of conduct discredits the trust we place in our public officials, and it is exactly the reason why the FBI remains committed to rooting out all forms of public corruption.”
If convicted of wire fraud, Meng faces a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment. The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Todd Kaminsky and Marisa Seifan.
The charge in the complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.