Controversial Bronx figure Pedro Espada’s checkered career has ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
The disgraced ex-pol may have managed to skirt a stiff prison sentence for siphoning nearly half a million in Medicaid funds from his health clinic by pleading guilty to one count of federal tax evasion.
He made the deal last week, confessing to lying on his 2005 taxes.
His son, Pedro Gautier Espada, also copped a deal with prosecutors.
Under federal guidelines, they could face up to seven years in prison when sentenced February 22.
But presiding U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Bloch could still throw the book – 43 years – at him.
The Bronx will now see the end of one of the craftiest politicians to hit its political sphere.
Then a community organizer, he opened the Soundview Health Center in 1978.
Molding himself as a man of the people, Espada ran for both borough, city and state offices.
He first won the seat in the 32nd Senate District covering Soundview in 1993.
He lost in 1996 to David Rosado, but won the seat again in 2000.
He was defeated in 2001 by Adolfo Carrion Jr. in the race for borough president.
After leaving Albany, Espada won a seat in the 18th City Council District in Soundview, beating rival Ruben Diaz Sr.
Espada then shifted territory – and supposed residence – running against and defeating incumbent state Senator Efrain Gonzalez in the 33rd Senate District in the west Bronx, only to be unseated in 2010 by current officeholder Gustavo Rivera.
Ruben Diaz Sr., who currently holds the Soundview senate seat, later formed an alliance – and friendship – with Espada, creating chaos in an evenly politically divided state senate in 2009 when they formed the Four Amigos, trading their swing votes for funding and job titles, including titular Majority Leader for Espada.
Diaz told the Bronx Times this week that he felt sorry for Espada, who had so many talents and accomplishments – and potential.
“Pedro Espada could have been the leader of the Bronx. He had everything. He is smart and knows business,” said Diaz. “I don’t know what went wrong that took him to this situation. But we have to say, he created jobs, he created opportunities and services for the people in his community.” Troubles for Espada came after the state Attorney General’s Office, headed by current Governor Cuomo, began investigating the lawmaker after the 2009 Albany coup, with the feds later stepping in.
The probe revealed Espada used $500,000 in Medicaid funds for personal use, including cars for his family, high-priced tickets and family vacations. Espada hawked the money as a legitimate personal expense.
Espada had always claimed he being the victim of a “vast conspiracy.” Cuomo refuted the accusations, saying on the day of Espada’s guilty plea:
“Today I give Mr. Espada the last word – when he says, ‘guilty.’”
Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383.
For more on Espada’s downfall, see the BoroBeat column on page 8.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383