The web of corruption former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio wove ensnared the Long Island Rail Road and an official at Plaza College in Jackson Heights, among others, prosecutors said at Wednesday’s pre-sentencing hearing for the Richmond Hill politician.He pleaded guilty in June to taking money from Jamaica Hospital administrators in exchange for lobbying state health officials on their behalf.
Prosecutor William Harrington described what he said were corrupt relationships Seminerio had with the LIRR and Plaza College at the hearing before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan federal court.
Harrington said Seminerio numerous times tried to get friends and family members jobs at the Long Island Rail Road after securing funding for the MTA subsidiary.
Seminerio also obtained $170,000 between 2000 and 2007 from Collegiate Management Associates, which Harrington said was headed by Charles Callahan, the vice president and provost of Plaza College. During that time, Harrington said Seminerio, a Democrat, sponsored Assembly bills that would help Plaza College, which issues bachelor degrees in business administration and offers associate degree programs.
Only Seminerio has been charged with wrongdoing.
Callahan did not return a phone call for comment on Wednesday.
A former LIRR executive told Harrington that while he was employed with the railroad, Seminerio “called the Long Island Rail Road more frequently than other politicians and tried to get people jobs,” according to prosecutors.
“Any time that I would give them a $250,000 contribution, or $500,000, for repairs on the rail in to here, I need two jobs,” Seminerio said about the LIRR to former Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, who wore a wire at the request of the federal government. according to court transcripts. “Even if I didn’t have anybody, then I find two people and get them jobs.”
The prosecution played phone calls they intercepted between Seminerio and Long Island Rail Road officials, including one in February 2008 between Seminerio and LIRR official Joe Calderone during which Seminerio attempted to land a job for his son’s friend, George Dilieto.
After telling Calderone that he hoped to get Dilieto a job, he informed the LIRR official that he “did a lot of work on the railroad yards for you guys.”
“I got a lot of capital funding money,” Seminerio said, according to the phone excerpt played in court Wednesday. “So, Joe, please, this is a favor that I want to pay the family for being so good to me after 30 years.”
Following Seminerio’s conversation with Calderone, he called Dilieto and told him to tell Seminerio’s son that “I took care of you.”
Seminerio, who sat through most of Wednesday’s hearing, laughed and shook his head after the phone call with Dilieto was played in court — one of the few times he showed any emotion. He sat staring at the ground for much of the afternoon, only occasionally glancing up to look at the judge or Harrington.
The former assemblyman resigned from office and pleaded guilty to fraud charges in June following a massive investigation by the federal government that included testimony from McLaughlin, who was convicted of federal corruption charges last year and is now in jail. Seminerio created a phony consulting company called Marc Consultants that he used to illegally extort money from groups in Queens and throughout the city in exchange for favorable legislation, the government said.
Prosecutors charged that Seminerio received the $170,000 between 2000 and 2007 from the company controlled by Plaza College’s vice president in exchange for his support for legislation that would make it difficult for institutions offering similar services as Plaza to open. Seminerio also nominated Callahan to the New State Workforce Investment Act Governing Board, which allowed Callahan to work with Seminerio on bills involving state and federal funding for schools, Harrington said.
Prosecutors wrapped up their pre-sentence arguments Wednesday, saying Seminerio had abused his power as an assemblyman to extort money from a wide range of groups and repeated what Seminerio said to McLaughlin in Richmond Hill’s Atlantic Diner in 2007.
“I was doing favors for these sons-of-b------ there you know, they were making thousands,” Seminerio told McLaughlin about hospitals and health care facilities, according to court documents. “So I said ‘screw you, from now on, you know, I’m a consultant.”
Harrington further criticized Seminerio’s dealings with city groups and officials. “Seminerio didn’t follow the letter of the law, and he didn’t even believe in the letter of the law,” Harrington said.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2009 Community News Group
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