After a four-week jury trial, New York State Senator John Sampson was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, for one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements to federal agents.
The guilty verdicts follow evidence at trial and publicly filed documents establishing that, among other things, Sampson, as an attorney practicing in Brooklyn, New York embezzled funds he held in escrow from the sale of real estate properties. Concerned that his theft might be discovered by law enforcement, in 2006 Sampson asked an associate for $188,500 to replenish the stolen funds. In exchange, Sampson used his position as a Senator to assist the associate’s real estate business interests.
In the summer of 2011, the associate was arrested and charged with bank and wire fraud. Sampson feared that the associate might cooperate with the government and disclose Sampson’s embezzlement, so Sampson contacted a close personal friend, who was also a supervisory paralegal in this office, and asked him to find out if Sampson was under investigation and to obtain confidential information about the associate’s case, including the identities of cooperating witnesses. The paralegal agreed and reported his findings to Sampson.
Sampson told his associate about his source and added that if they could determine the identities of cooperating witnesses in the associate’s case, they could “take them out.” Sampson also suggested that they hire a private investigator to do the “dirty work.”
Sampson then directed his associate to withhold from the government evidence regarding the $188,500 payment. At a February 2012 meeting, the associate told Sampson that the government had subpoenaed the associate’s business records, including a check register page documenting the payment. The associate showed the page to Sampson, who examined it and stated, “That’s a problem . . . I mean for me.” Sampson kept the page and instructed his associate not to disclose it to the government.
On July 27, 2012, FBI Special Agents interviewed Sampson, and he denied being familiar with the check register page. Sampson also falsely denied directing his Senate staffers to take certain actions relating to regulatory issues for a liquor store in which Sampson held an ownership interest. At the conclusion of the interview, the agents advised Sampson that he had lied to federal agents, which constituted a federal crime. When asked whether he wished to revise his statement, Sampson stated, “Not everything I told you was false.”
Since 1997, Sampson has served in the New York State Senate representing the 19th Senate District in southeastern Brooklyn. From June 2009 to December 2012, Sampson was the leader of the Democratic Conference of the Senate, and from January 2011 to December 2012, he was also the Senate Minority Leader. Sampson has also served as the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. When sentenced by United States District Judge Dora L. Irizarry, Sampson faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The verdict was announced by Kelly T. Currie, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.
“Today’s verdict stands as a vindication of the efforts of this office and the FBI to aggressively root out corruption undertaken by a public official in New York,” stated Acting United States Attorney Currie. “Sampson, a lawyer, New York State Senator, Senate leader, and one time chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, abused his power and violated his oath undermining the very system of laws he was sworn to uphold. He will now be held accountable for his crimes.” Mr. Currie expressed his grateful appreciation to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of the Inspector General; the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice; and the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice for their assistance in this case.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez stated, “Sampson’s decision to engage in corrupt and illegal behavior was further aggravated by his efforts to conceal the scheme from FBI agents charged with investigating his misconduct. As this case proves, we, along with our partners, will continue to root out obstruction of justice in all forms and at all levels of government.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Paul Tuchmann, Alexander Solomon, and Marisa Seifan are in charge of the prosecution.