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FBI probes indicted Caribbean American legislator

Published:Sunday | May 26, 2013 | 3:03 PM

NEW YORK, May 26, CMC – The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating whether indicted Caribbean American legislator Senator John Sampson broke the law by seeking and receiving retainer fees from at least two businessmen who sought his assistance in dealing with the government.

According to reports here, in both cases, the FBI taped the businessmen discussing their involvement with Sampson, 47,who represented the predominantly 19th New York State Senatorial District in Brooklyn.

Earlier this month, US prosecutors indicted Sampson on unrelated charges of embezzling US$440,000 in escrow funds from foreclosure sales to help finance his failed 2005 campaign for Brooklyn District Attorney.

His indictment was the latest in what has been described as a stunning parade of arrests of New York state lawmakers for alleged wrongdoing.

The FBI’s focus of the latest probe is the “retainer fees” Sampson had allegedly demanded for the kind of work that other elected officials typically perform as part of their jobs.

Sampson, who is also a lawyer, was once one of New York State’s most powerful politicians, rising to the top of the Senate’s leadership in 2009 after Democrats became a majority in the chamber. He lost power two years later when Democrats lost their control of the Senate.The FBI said, last year, it confronted Brooklyn auto dealer Guyanese Lilaahar “Sammy” Bical, owner of Kristal Auto Mall, one of the biggest Cadillac dealers on the United States’ East Coast, about Sampson’s role in helping him eliminate hurdles blocking Bical’s plan to buy a New York City-owned plot in Brooklyn.

The FBI claimed that Sampson requested a US$10,000 “retainer fee” up front, and that Bical wrote the cheque,shortly afterwards Sampson allegedly arranged a meeting with the Michael Bloomberg administration officials.

A spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which oversaw the land sale, confirmed that Sampson “provided legal counsel to Bical and met with EDC a few times.”

On May 6, US prosecutors offered Sampson a deal to plead guilty to one count each of embezzlement and obstruction of justice charges that would allow him less prison time. Sampson had pleaded not guilty to the charges.