Queens Assemblyman Is Charged With Inflating Travel Expenses by $40,000

The New York Times – by Thomas Kaplan

Continuing the parade of Albany politicians accused of misbehavior, an assemblyman from Queens was arrested on Wednesday and charged with stealing from the state by seeking reimbursement for nonexistent travel expenses.

The assemblyman, William Scarborough, a Democrat, was also accused of using campaign money for personal expenses. He faces charges in both state and federal court.

Assemblyman Scarborough’s arrest was the latest in aseries of scandals involving New York State legislatorsand raised fresh questions about the effectiveness of efforts to combat ethical lapses by lawmakers, even on mundane matters like hotel-room allowances.  

“Assemblyman Scarborough tried to game the system, thinking he was going to get away with it,” the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Manhattan. “He did not.”

Mr. DiNapoli’s office worked on the investigation with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a Democrat; Richard S. Hartunian, the United States attorney for the Northern District of New York; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mr. Scarborough, 68, pleaded not guilty in both cases on Wednesday. He said in an interview that he had costly travel expenses because, unlike other lawmakers, he did not feel comfortable leaving his Albany office unattended when the Legislature was not in session.

“I guess if I had stayed in New York City, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said.

His lawyer, E. Stewart Jones Jr., said Mr. Scarborough was owed money by his campaign because of political expenses he had paid out of his own pocket. He added that if Mr. Scarborough claimed travel expenses to which he was not entitled, “it’s simply an innocent mistake,” and that Mr. Scarborough would repay the money.

Mr. Scarborough, who was first elected to the Assembly in 1994, is accused of abusing the per diem system that allows members of the Legislature to be reimbursed for their travel costs. Lawmakers receive $172 for each day they are in Albany, $111 for lodging and $61 for food and other expenses, and are not required to submit receipts to receive the payments.

Lawmakers earn a base salary of $79,500, and critics have said some legislators take an aggressive approach to claiming per diems to pad their earnings. Another assemblyman, William F. Boyland Jr., a Brooklyn Democrat, was convicted in March of cheating the state out of more than $70,000 by filing fake travel expenses.

In 2011, 2012 and 2013, Mr. Scarborough received more in travel reimbursements than any other legislator — an average of $34,054.03 per year, according to Mr. DiNapoli’s office.

But according to an 11-count indictment in Federal District Court in Albany, Mr. Scarborough claimed expenses for traveling to the capital on days when he was not there or periods when he stayed for a shorter time than he asserted.

Mr. Scarborough is accused of stealing at least $40,000 from the state by submitting 174 false travel vouchers from 2009 through 2012, according to the indictment.

Law enforcement officials had been examining Mr. Scarborough’s travel habits for some time. In March, investigators showed up at his hotel room at a Howard Johnson Inn near Albany to question him.

In a separate 23-count indictment in State Supreme Court in Albany, Mr. Scarborough is accused of siphoning money from his campaign committee, as well as filing false disclosure statements with the State Board of Elections in order to conceal his conduct.

Mr. Scarborough withdrew about $38,575 from his campaign committee’s bank account over a period of seven years, according to the attorney general’s office, which said he made intermittent deposits to repay about half the money he took. He is also accused of depositing into his personal bank account five checks that had been made payable to his campaign committee, which totaled $3,450.

The improper use of campaign money and the abuse of travel reimbursements were among the subjects investigated by theMoreland Commission, a panel that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, created last year to investigate public corruption, but shut down in March.

Mr. Scarborough, who represents a heavily Democratic district in southeast Queens, would lose his seat if convicted in either case.

But in the meantime, he does not need to worry about the charges affecting his chances in the election in November. He does not have an opponent.

4 thoughts on “Queens Assemblyman Is Charged With Inflating Travel Expenses by $40,000

  1. ““Assemblyman Scarborough tried to game the system, thinking he was going to get away with it,” the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Manhattan. “He did not.””

    I guess he wasn’t playing ball with his Masonic controllers and so they hung him out to dry.

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