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Seminerio, 74, pleads guilty to fraud charge

Two candidates have expressed their interest in succeeding former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, who pleaded guilty last week in Manhattan federal court to setting up a fake consulting business to collect corrupt payments from entities seeking his influence as a legislator.

Nick Comaianni, president of Community District Education Council 24 and a Community Board 9 member, announced his candidacy just hours after Seminerio abruptly resigned June 23 from the Assembly, where Seminerio had served for more than 30 years.

Donna Caltabiano, executive director of the Forest Park Senior Citizens Center and a former vice president of School Board 27 and former CB 9 member, joined Comaianni into the race Friday.

Caltabiano was endorsed by the Queens GOP.

“Donna is an excellent candidate and she will make a terrific Assemblywoman,” Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa said. “Her common sense and dedication to her community is just what Queens needs in Albany.”

In pleading guilty, Seminerio admitted to taking illegal payments from Jamaica Hospital in turn for favorable treatment in Albany, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York said.

Seminerio, 74, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 20 after pleading guilty to defrauding the public of his honest services before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, the U.S. attorney said.

“Instead of using his office to help New Yorkers, Anthony Seminerio used his office to help himself,” acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin said in a statement. “Anthony Seminerio was caught red-handed violating the law and the public’s trust by taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in corrupt payments.”

Seminerio set up Marc Consultants, a fake consulting company, in 1999 and used it to funnel illegal payments from those seeking favorable treatment in Albany.

In pleading guilty, Seminerio admitted that Jamaica Hospital paid him a consulting fee as it tried to acquire another hospital, which was not named, federal prosecutors said.

Seminerio did not disclose to a state Health Department official whom he had spoken to about the Jamaica Hospital matter.

In addition to the hospital acquisition discussion, two unidentified hospital executives paid Seminerio $310,000 and complained to him that an Assembly budget bill “was not good for us,” according to the initial criminal complaint filed against the former assemblyman.

“I knew that my conduct was illegal and wrong,” Seminerio said when entering his plea, federal prosecutors said.

A superseding indictment charged Seminerio in March with “extortionate acts,” for allegedly pressuring and trying to pressure individuals into hiring Marc Consultants. Seminerio did not enter a plea on those charges.

Gov. David Paterson has yet to set a date for a special election to fill Seminerio’s seat.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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