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McLaughlin fesses up

McLaughlin, 55, signed a deal Friday that will recommend he serve between eight and 10 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea on federal racketeering and false statements charges, according to the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District.By pleading guilty, McLaughlin admitted to a litany of crimes that painted a picture both of greed and betrayal during his years as an influential Flushing Democrat and a powerful labor leader.In federal court in Manhattan Friday, he admitted to 21 separate criminal offenses spanning more than a decade during which he stole $2.2 million from unions, contractors, his own political committee and a Little League in his Assembly district.Federal Judge Richard Sullivan is not bound by the details of the plea bargain, however, and will have the final say at McLaughlin's sentencing, scheduled for Sept. 12.Once a popular Queens legislator, his colleagues were mum on McLaughlin's admission of guilt, much as they were when he was arrested nearly 18 months ago. The disgraced Flushing legislator pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and one count of making false statements on a loan application, according to the plea agreement. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for the racketeering charge and another 20 years in prison for the false statements charge, but will most likely be sentenced under federal guidelines to the recommended eight to 10 years.The U.S. attorney's Office declined to comment on whether McLaughlin had agreed to give any information about anyone else who may have been involved in his schemes. As a part of the plea deal, McLaughlin will also be forced to forfeit up to $2.2 million in ill-gotten proceeds, which include a Nissequogue, L.I. home whose construction and mortgage payments were funded by stolen money, according to the plea deal.He was freed on $250,000 bail Friday.Reached following the guilty plea, McLaughlin's attorney, Michael F. Armstrong, said the case is considered ongoing until sentencing and neither he nor McLaughlin had any formal comment.State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), a close friend of who was elected to McLaughlin's seat following his resignation, said he had no comment on the guilty plea.Prior to his indictment, McLaughlin had built his career from a job as an electrician to one of the most powerful and well-liked voices of labor and politics in Queens.He was elected to the 25th Assembly District in Queens in 1992, an office he held for nearly 14 years, and quickly became an active member of the Queens Democratic Party. Serving the communities of Fresh Meadows, Flushing, Auburndale, Pomonok, Hillcrest, Kew Gardens Hills and parts of Richmond Hill, he was revered by his constituents as well as his colleagues, and had been frequently mentioned as a possible contender for mayor prior to his arrest in October 2006. In court Friday, McLaughlin admitted to stealing more than $35,000 by creating fictitious positions on his legislative staff and pocketing the non-existent worker's salary. During his time in office, McLaughlin also said he stole $95,000 from the Electchester Athletic Association, which operates Little League Baseball in his former district, by participating in a mail fraud scheme.McLaughlin was also an active member of the labor movement for more than two decades, serving as a high ranking member of the Local 3 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for several years, a union he remains a member of to this day.According to a statement released by U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, McLaughlin admitted in court Friday to stealing "well over $100,000" from the IBEW, using funds from a union account to pay his personal credit card bills and country club dues.McLaughlin also admitted to taking "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in payments from contractors that employed IBEW union members, in one instance permitting a contractor to employ fewer union members in exchange for the kickbacks, Garcia said.Despite this, McLaughlin has continued to be an active member of Local 3 IBEW, working for $46 an hour doing electrical work on a luxury apartment complex in midtown Manhattan in recent months.In 1995, McLaughlin was unanimously elected president of the Central Labor Council, becoming just the third person to hold the position within the organization, an umbrella group which represents more than 400 unions and 1.3 million workers around the city.McLaughlin told the court that he stole about $185,000 from the council by hiring someone as both a consultant and employee who did little or no work for the group, and subsequently funneled the income back to McLaughlin.The council released a statement Friday saying it had acted swiftly in the wake of McLaughlin's dismissal to reinvigorate and bolster the transparency of its operations."That being said, we wish the McLaughlin family well at this difficult time," the statement read.Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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