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New York City Embezzlement Defense Tricky With Ugly Politics

The New York City embezzlement defense of former state Senator Pedro Espada Jr. hinged on whether his earnings from his own medical clinics in poor neighborhoods crossed the line.New York City criminal defense attorneys know that it’s not a crime to make money, to do well for yourself. It’s possible that were it not for the political drama that was unfolding in the state at the same time, Espada might never have faced any criminal charges.

But as it turns out, he was found guilty of four counts of embezzlement, while a mistrial was declared on four other counts.

Espada is accused of pilfering taxpayer money that was intended to help poor patients and instead using it to treat himself to expensive ballpark outings, children’s pony rides and expensive vehicles.

But digging a little deeper, it certainly appears that dirty politics played a role in the case. This of course illustrates the need for a skilled New York City criminal defense attorney in cases of alleged white collar crime.

Prosecutors in this case took weeks to introduce into evidence mountains of bank statements, checks and credit card bills that they contended revealed a secret scam in which Espada and his son would funnel money from the clinics they founded into their pockets. They allegedly did this by overcharging for certain fees, such as cleaning.

Meanwhile, prosecutors contend the clinics (of which there are four) struggled with only a handful of doctors, never enough cash and machinery that was out-of-date.

Espada founded the first of four clinics back in the late 1970s in the Bronx. Each center provided social and health care services. The clinics were subsidized by government funding.

Espada’s defense attorneys say that yes, he made money off the clinics. But first of all, these clinics are situated in neighborhoods that would otherwise have no access to health care at all. And secondly, earning is not a crime.

What’s crucial to understanding how all this came about, though, is understanding the political climate in the city at the time Espada was first charged. Espada, a Puerto Rican street fighter, eventually graduated from college, founded these successful clinics prior to his election to his senate post. He had just been re-elected in 2008, and in a coalition with two other Democrats, demanded leadership roles within the Democratic party in order to alleviate what he said was a lack of Latino and minority voice. If those demands weren’t met, Espada and the others threatened to join the Republicans in voting on major issues, which would ultimately end the Democratic majority – the first in 50 years.

Espada and the others followed through with the threat, joining the Republicans. It was politically very ugly, and ultimately cost him his senate seat.

It was in this climate that Espada was accused of embezzlement from the clinics. He described it as a political “witch hunt.”

The gamble with politics sometimes is that you can lose big. However, disagreeing with someone politics doesn’t make you a criminal.

Having an aggressive white collar crimes attorney on your side in these situations is critical.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides criminal defense in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

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