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McLaughlin ally admits to bribery

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The former head of a Long Island City-based electric company that hired union workers represented by disgraced former state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin pleaded guilty Friday to making tens of thousands of dollars in illegal payments to the corrupt ex-legislator, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan said.

Santo Petrocelli Sr., the former owner and chairman of Petrocelli Electric Co., headquartered at 22-09 Queens Plaza N., faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to making an unlawful payment to a labor representative, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District said.

McLaughlin, the former chief of the Central Labor Council, began serving a 10-year sentence earlier this month in a North Carolina federal prison after pleading guilty to racketeering charges that included embezzlement and taking bribes. He stole $2.2 million in funds from the Electchester Little League and his campaign account, among other groups.

U.S. District Court Judge Miriam Goldman Cederbaum is scheduled to sentence Petrocelli Nov. 5.

When the payments were made in 2004, McLaughlin was a labor representative for Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers, some of whom were employed by Petrocelli, federal prosecutors said. McLaughlin was also an assemblyman during that period.

The tens of thousands of dollars in payments Petrocelli made to McLaughlin included cash and the use of a Petrocelli Electric Co. car, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The guilty plea marked the first time prosecutors publicly identified McLaughlin’s role in the case. In its charges against Petrocelli, prosecutorsreferred to the person Petrocelli made the payments to only as a “business representative of Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.”

But in a letter published following the sentencing of McLaughlin earlier this year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Braun said the former assemblyman cooperated extensively with the investigation.

“During his proffer sessions, McLaughlin provided a detailed account of the history and nature of his dealings with Petrocelli. He also provided information regarding other individuals at Petrocelli Electric who had been involved in, or who would have knowledge of, that criminal conduct,” Braun said.

Braunsaid the Petrocelli case was significant to federal authorities “not only because of the nature and extent of the criminal conduct involving McLaughlin, but also, among other reasons, because Petrocelli Electric has performed major contracts for government agencies and other public authorities and has been involved in significant construction projects in New York, New Jersey and other areas.”

Petrocelli left the company in 2006 and federal prosecutors said it would not pursue criminal charges against the firm, in part because of its former owner’s guilty plea and “the negative effect that charges against PEC would have on the company’s innocent employees and legitimate activities.”

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

Updated 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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