Former Queens Assemblyman Jimmy Meng, father of Assemblywoman Grace Meng, has been arrested for allegedly soliciting $80,000 in cash from a court defendant and promising to use the money to bribe Manhattan prosecutors between December 2011 and July 2012, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch’s office announced this afternoon.
Federal investigators found the ex-legislator did not contact anyone in the district attorney’s office and planned to keep the bribe money for himself. This morning, Meng was arrested after a cooperating witness (CW) brought the $80,000 in a fruit basket to a lumber yard owned by Meng.
If convicted of wire fraud, Meng would spend a maximum of up to 20 years in prison.
The investigation arose from a state tax fraud case involving a cooperating witness who was indicted in 2011. Meng allegedly offered to help the individual by paying off four district attorneys with $20,000 each – an offer prompting the witness to work with federal prosecutors to probe Meng instead.
In January 2012, the witness met Meng at his Flushing lumber yard and recorded their conversation in which the ex-pol promised to take the heat off, unless he got a sentence more than two years. In that case, Meng would keep a $2,000 fee.
“I’ll be responsible,” Meng allegedly told the witness. “If [sic] didn’t get it done for you, right? Over three years, right? Over two years, right? Then just charge you $2,000 – $2,000 for running errands and the rest – I take responsibility – will be returned to you completely.”
Meng then ordered the witness to collect $80,000 and put it in a fruit basket, which he would arrange for an associate to pick up.
“You can also pack a bag of fruit,” said Meng allegedly. “Put in there $80,000. Right. It’s a non-Chinese. You just pack up some fruits and place some money in there. He won’t touch it. Suppose he… packed inside right? – they take it as a Christmas gift…this is very normal.”
“[B]ut this door of yours cannot open…. We want to open it for you, open your case. You know what the first step in opening it is–postponement. With postponement, we talk with the government, let…the prosecutors convince each other,” Meng added.
In July, days before federal investigators closed in on him, Meng allegedly told the witness that he made progress in the case and instructed him to prepare the money and deliver it to the lumber yard.
Today, Meng met the cooperating witness at his vehicle outside the lumberyard, where the CW “opened the trunk and Meng removed the fruit basket containing thousands of dollars,” the complaint said. “At that time, federal agents arrested Meng.”
“As alleged in the complaint, Jimmy Meng sought to be a power broker in the halls of justice, but the influence he sought to peddle was corrupt, and his power was illusory,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, Loretta Lynch on Tuesday. “This arrest confirms that justice is not for sale. We will vigorously prosecute anyone who seeks to undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system, whether through fraud or bribery.”
Jimmy Meng’s daughter, Grace Meng, won a hard-fought four-way Democratic primary in June for a congressional seat in Queens. Meng faces Republican Councilman Dan Halloran in a November general election, and would become the first Asian-American elected to Congress from New York.
In a statement, Grace Meng said she had no knowledge of her father’s activities.
“I am shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations,” said Meng. “Prior to this afternoon’s reports, I had no knowledge of my father’s actions or the investigation. I am independent of my father – always have been, always will be. Until more facts emerge and we have a better understanding of the situation, the only thing further I’ll say is that I urge my father to fully cooperate with all authorities.”
Jimmy Meng was the state’s first Asian-American assemblyman, serving only one term, in 2005 and 2006. An aide pleaded guilty to falsifying voter registration forms at the time, clouding his tenure.
New York City Comptroller John Liu, another prominent figure in Flushing Asian-American community, has over the past year been ensnared in a fundraising scandal, though Liu has not personally been charged.
Here’s the complaint:
Trackback from your site.