Ex-NYC Union Head Convicted of Taking Bribe to Invest in Fund

ex nyc union head convicted of taking bribe to invest in fund
Ex-NYC Union Head Convicted of Taking Bribe to Invest in Fund

A former head of New York City’s correction officers’ union was found guilty on Wednesday of accepting a bribe to steer union money to now-defunct hedge fund Platinum Partners for investing.
Norman Seabrook, a leader of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association for two decades, was convicted by a Manhattan federal jury of fraud and conspiracy after his second trial on the charges. An earlier trial ended with a hung jury in November.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein set Seabrook’s sentencing for Nov. 30.

“I feel disappointed, especially knowing that I did nothing wrong,” Seabrook said after the verdict.

His lawyer, Paul Shechtman, said the verdict would be appealed.

“As long as there are public servants who put self-interest above the people they are sworn to serve, public corruption will remain a top priority of this office,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Berman, whose office prosecuted the case.

Federal prosecutors accused Seabrook of steering $20 million of union funds into Platinum in exchange for a $60,000 bribe from the fund. Prosecutors said the payment was arranged by Platinum co-founder Murray Huberfeld and delivered to Seabrook in the form of cash stuffed into a Ferragamo bag by real estate developer Jona Rechnitz.

Rechnitz, whose role as a fundraiser for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio drew public attention to the case, pleaded guilty and testified against Seabrook.

Huberfeld stood trial alongside Seabrook last year but pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud before Seabrook’s second trial. He did not testify against Seabrook.

De Blasio has repeatedly denied that Rechnitz enjoyed any corrupt influence in his administration. Federal and state prosecutors closed an investigation into de Blasio’s fundraising in March without bringing charges. The mayor was re-elected last year.

Platinum Partners largely shut down operations after seven people affiliated with the firm, including co-founder Mark Nordlicht, were charged in December with running a $1 billion fraud. All have pleaded not guilty.

Platinum’s assets are being liquidated under the oversight of court-appointed receivers.

Seabrook’s conviction is the latest in a string of victories for Manhattan federal prosecutors in public corruption cases. Others convicted this year include former New York Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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