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Seminerio dies while serving prison sentence

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Former Richmond Hill legislator Anthony Seminerio, 75, died Thursday while serving the first year of a six-year prison sentence, Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons has confirmed.

Ross could not provide any further details about his death, including why, where, how or what time he passed away. Seminerio was being held at the Federal Medical Center at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.

A Manhattan federal judge sentenced Seminerio to six years in prison Feb. 4 for abusing his power as a lawmaker and extorting money out of hospitals, nonprofits and other groups in exchange for lobbying state officials on their behalf.

“For over 30 years, Anthony Seminerio represented the 38th Assembly District with passion and dedication,” said Seminerio’s successor, Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven). “We should remember all of the good things that he has done for the community. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife and his children.”

Seminerio represented Glendale, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park and Woodhaven for 31 years. Before his legislative career, Seminerio was an executive board member of the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association.

He also had some bit parts in movies, according to his Assembly biography.

The six-year sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald was far less than the 14 years Seminerio could have received. He was also ordered to pay a $1 million fine.

“When you were elected, you were given a great privilege,” Buchwald told Seminerio during his sentencing hearing. “You abused the trust placed in you.”

Seminerio pleaded guilty in June 2009 to taking more than $300,000 from Jamaica Hospital administrators in exchange for approaching state health officials to promote their interests. The federal prosecutors, led by William Harrington, said Seminerio created a sham consulting agency, Marc Consultants, to squeeze $1 million out of Jamaica Hospital, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Plaza College in Jackson Heights, the Long Island Rail Road and other organizations while in office.

Former state Sen. Serphin Maltese, who worked closely with and was good friends with Seminerio, could not be reached for comment.

Seminerio’s sentence is four years less than that given to Brian McLaughlin, the former Flushing assemblyman who originally put Seminerio in touch with an FBI agent posing as a developer. The FBI listened in on and recorded numerous conversations with Seminerio that were later used in court. Seminerio got $25,000 from the FBI agent and in exchange agreed to propose legislation favored by the supposed developer.

McLaughlin is now serving a 10-year jail term for stealing $2.2 million from a neighborhood Little League, city contractors and his own labor union.

At a 2008 party honoring Seminerio’s 30 years in the legislature at La Bella Vita in Ozone Park, before the investigation into Seminerio became known, the legislator reflected on his legacy.

“The bottom line is I helped everybody who needed help,” he said. “On a scale of one to 10, I was a good eight or nine. And I’m proud of that.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 10:37 am, October 12, 2011
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