Larry Seabrook was slammed in a federal court for corruption and fraud on Tuesday, February 9.
Federal investigators have probed the third-term councilman and a ring of Bronx non-profit groups frequently and for many years. But Seabrook was never indicted. Perhaps it was only a matter of time.
Late on February 9, Seabrook’s lawyer, Murray Richman, called the indictment “much ado about nothing” and asked, “Where’s the crime?”
The former senator will remain innocent until proven guilty. But allegedly, Seabrook kept busy. His 66-page indictment reads like a lesson in greed. Between 2002 and 2009, the married Seabrook allegedly funneled “member-item” city money to non-profits where his girlfriend, family members and friends earned three-figure salaries.
Those non-profits included the North East Bronx Redevelopment Corporation, the Bronx African-American Chamber of Commerce, the New York African-American Legal & Civic Hall of Fame, the Mercy Foundation of NY and the African-American Bronx Unity Day Parade.
Elected to a third term in November 2009 after his triumph in a crowded Democratic primary, Seabrook allegedly took $50,000 from a Bronx businessman in return for a boiler contract at the new Yankee Stadium.
The indictment also alleges that Seabrook used his North East Bronx Democratic Club to launder money and that he doctored receipts. Seabrook allegedly steered money to the club and then lined his own pockets.
The former state senator once bought a bagel sandwich and diet beverage near City Hall for $7 and submitted a $177 receipt to his political club for reimbursement, the indictment alleges.
But the indictment fails to spell out how payments from the boiler businessman to Seabrook’s club – the businessman served as chairman of the club – constituted extortion, Richman argued.
“So [the businessman] got the contract from the Yankees,” Richman said. “Where is the extortion?”
Richman also questioned the criminal character of Seabrook’s member items to “friendly” non-profits.
“Most people get jobs through friends,” the lawyer said. “I don’t see any wrongdoing.”
Krystal Serrano, a former City Council candidate in Seabrook’s district, was surprised, yet not surprised, at the indictment news. Surprised because the rumors had swirled for so long. Not surprised because there had been so many rumors.
“It finally happened,” she said.
Once Serrano grabbed a Bronx African-American Chamber flier that advertised available jobs and dialed the phone number on the flier; it was disconnected. The group kept an office next door to Seabrook’s White Plains Road district office and was rarely open, Serrano recalled.
“I found out it was connected to Seabrook,” she said.
Former Seabrook challengers Algernon Quattlebaum and Johnnie Goff withheld comment; they plan to wait and see how Seabrook fares in court. Former challenger Andy King called February 9 a “sad day.”
“My prayers are with [Seabrook] and his family,” King said. “I wouldn’t wish [an indictment] on anybody.”
The indictment stunned one Seabrook backer and neighborhood leader who asked to remain anonymous.
“I’m in shock,” she said.
So many public figures have gone down, from Senator Efrain Gonzalez down, she remarked. The neighborhood leader has no doubt that Seabrook’s reputation will suffer, whether he’s found guilty or not.
“So much greed,” she said. “But Larry has always supported our causes.”
Serrano dropped out of the 2009 primary early on and when Seabrook was elected, resolved to work with his office.
“But in light of [the indictment], we have to take a look at our leaders,” she said.
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or email@example.com
©2010 Community News Group