Albert Baldeo, a prominent Guyanese community leader and a Democratic district leader representing Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, was charged with four counts of mail fraud and obstruction of justice.
Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Authorities allege that during his unsuccessful campaign for City Council in 2010 Baldeo tried to scam the city’s matching funds program administered through the Campaign Finance Board, which gives candidates $6 for every $1 donated to their campaign.
Baldeo, however, is accused of fabricating contributions by withdrawing funds from his own bank account and funneling the money to his campaign via straw donors.
According to the criminal complaint, Baldeo would provide money orders to people, who would then “donate” the money in their own name, but never reimbursed Baldeo for the contributions.
Baldeo allegedly sought matching funds for $15,000 in fake campaign contributions, which would have resulted in him receiving $90,000 in taxpayer money through the program.
“Albert Baldeo was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances, including engaging in a scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws by funneling his own money through straw donors,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
According to investigators, when the F.B.I. began to unravel the scheme, Baldeo allegedly strong-armed straw donors in an attempt to force them to lie to agents.
“Mr. Baldeo told straw donors to lie to our agents and in some cases threatened and intimidated others in a vain attempt to derail the FBI’s investigation,” said Mary Galligan, acting assistant director of the F.B.I.
In a prepared statement, Baldeo’s lawyer, Henry Mazurek of Clayman & Rosenberg, said that his client was being unfairly targeted in a criminal case because he was not a favored candidate of the Queens County Democratic Party.
“The government’s crusade against Mr. Baldeo is particularly vindictive and discriminatory given that past history reveals that more sinister conduct alleged against establishment candidates often resulted in civil administrative proceedings, and not criminal cases,” he said.
Baldeo, Albert Complaint