Updated as of 4/13/2022 at 9:15 a.m. ET
New York Democratic Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has resigned following his arrest on bribery charges and offenses connected to an alleged campaign finance fraud during his bid for New York comptroller, reported NBC New York. Benjamin allegedly obtaining campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for a state grant for the developer’s business.
“I have accepted Brian Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately. While the legal process plays out, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as Lieutenant Governor,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul in a statement Tuesday.
According to NBC, Manhattan prosecutors and the FBI were already on his case, investigating if Benjamin knowingly participated in a campaign finance fraud. They also looked into whether Benjamin helped distribute state money to campaign contributors.
More on the case form NBC News:
An indictment alleges that Benjamin was given campaign contributions from a Harlem real estate developer in exchange for Benjamin obtaining a $50,000 state grant for the developer’s business.
The developer also allegedly gave Benjamin a third check for $5,000 in the name of a limited liability company owned by the developer.
The alleged scheme ran from about 2019 to 2021. Benjamin covered his tracks by falsifying campaign donor forms, misleading municipal regulators and “providing false information in vetting forms” he submitted, the indictment states.
According to the indictment, Benjamin received fraudulent contributions from the real estate developer in the names of people who had not personally funded his campaign, per CNN. Prosecutors allege Benjamin told staff some contributions were collected by the developer and that he personally met with them to receive the contributions.
His attorneys, James D. Gatta and William Harrington, said his actions weren’t made out of ill intent. In a statement, they said the $50,000 grant was given to Friends of Public School Harlem for supplies for students, via NBC New York.
The City published a report last year raising concerns about Benjamin’s donations, however, his campaign informed the Campaign Finance Board there was no reason to question the legitimacy of the contributions.
Additionally, the indictment claims Benjamin lied on his questionnaire for lieutenant governor, saying he never exercised his government authority concerning a donor he directly solicited, per CNN.
Benjamin surrendered to authorities and is expected to appear in federal Court Tuesday.
“After today’s charges, Brian will resign his duties as Lieutenant Governor and suspend his campaign. He will focus his energies on explaining in court why his actions were laudable—not criminal,” read the statement from his attorneys, via NBC New York.