New York State Senator John L. Sampson (D) turned himself over to authorities on Monday morning after an indictment was unsealed accusing him of embezzling funds from the sales of foreclosed properties and obstructing justice by making false statements to investigators.
The indictment against Sampson claims that he embezzled $440,000 from escrow accounts he controlled as a court-appointed arbitrator in a series of foreclosure sales.
Investigators allege that he used the money to fund his failed 2005 campaign for district attorney, after which he tried to cover up his actions with a loan of $188,000 from a New York businessman involved in mortgage fraud. When the mortgage fraud charges caught up to that man, he rolled over and began working with authorities.
That's when the man caught Sampson on a secret recording, offering to help eliminate whoever was testifying about the mortgage fraud charges. The indictment says he offered to find the federal informant and "take them out."
“The voters of New York State rightfully expect their elected officials to represent the voters’ interests, not to trade on their positions of power to line their own pockets,” U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in an advisory. “As charged in the indictment, for years, Senator John Sampson abused his position of public trust to steal from New Yorkers suffering from home foreclosure and from the very county he was elected to represent. But the former Senate ethics leader didn’t stop there."
Sampson is one of the most powerful members of New York's state senate, and ran the Democratic Conference from 2009-2012. He also served as Senate minority leader and led the Senate Ethics Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee.
His arrest is one in a series of recent, high-profile busts of New York state senators.
Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D) pleaded guilty to an embezzlement charge in January after investigators accused her of funneling money to family and friends through a dummy non-profit she set up. She too flipped and began working with authorities, secretly recording conversations with other elected officials, according to The New York Daily News.
State Sen. Malcolm A. Smith (D) was also arrested in April along with five others, including a Republican city councilman, in a plot to bribe his way into the Republican nomination for mayor.