State Sen. Carl Kruger says he’s going to continue serving the people of Southern Brooklyn despite federal charges that could earn him up to 120 years in the Big House — and land him in the poorhouse.
Five days after federal authorities announced that the Democrat sold his political clout and government connections for close to $1 million in payoffs to deep-pocketed lobbyists and developers, the embattled legislator said he’s going to keep on fighting for the residents who sent him to Albany.
“I am here to represent the people of my district,” Kruger, who’s facing more than $5 million in fines, repeated to reporters in Albany on Monday during his first public appearance since his arrest last week. “I am here to do my job and that’s what I’m doing.”
The frazzled and forlorn Kruger refused to say anything else to reporters save for a carefully constructed comment.
“I am not going to comment neither on the case nor my personal life.”
US Attorney Preet Bharara says Kruger was in the pockets of small business lobbyist Richard Lipsky; developer Aaron Malinsky, who is currently building the 65-story City Point development in Downtown; and three healthcare providers looking to buy publicly owned hospitals in Brooklyn and Queens — all of whom funneled more than $900,000 to shell companies set up by Michael Turano, the son of Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano who was outed last week as Kruger’s “intimate partner.”
According to the FBI complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court, people looking to gain Kruger’s help sent checks to Turano’s Olympian Strategic Development Corporation and Bassett Brokerage, a reference to the Mill Island street where Turano, his mother and brother have a multi-million dollar waterfront home that Kruger’s bribe money helped pay for.
In return, Kruger:
• Greased the wheels so Malinsky could develop the $65-million Canarsie Plaza Shopping Center on city-owned land at the corner of Avenue D and Remsen Avenue. The anchor store, a BJs, opened last fall. Malinsky paid Kruger $472,500 for his efforts, according to court documents.
• Tried to get Forest City Ratner Companies, the lead developer on the soon-to-be-built Four Sparrows Retail Center on the southern tip of Flatbush Avenue, to give a portion of the project to Malinsky so he could build a department store on the city-owned site. Investigators allege Kruger set up a meeting between Malinsky and Ratner, then promoted Malinsky’s plans to put a small-scale clothing store at Four Sparrows during a recent scoping session.
• Rallied against Walmart. Investigators say Lipsky funneled $252,000 from the Food and Commercial Workers Union to Kruger to speak out against Walmart and other big box stores.
Lipsky also asked Kruger to delay the expansion of a bill that included a five-cent deposit on bottled water, alter the Alcoholic Beverage Control law so grocery stores could begin selling wine and force Indian reservations to collect state sales taxes on cigarettes sold there — acts that would have benefitted his clients.
“Over a period of years, Sen. Kruger, who represented himself as a full-time legislator, was working overtime for business interests that bribed him to the tune of $1 million,” said Bharara.
The one-time chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee looked despondent and close to tears on March 10 as he and Michael Turano surrendered themselves to authorities.
Kruger, Turano, Lipsky, Malinsky, and four others — including Assemblyman William Boyland Jr., who was allegedly paid more than $177,000 to secure millions in state funds for Medisys Health Network, which owns Brookdale Hospital in Canarsie — were all released on their own recognizance, but ordered to hand over their passports.
Kruger’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, who at one time boasted that the FBI was no longer investigating the state senator, said Kruger was “saddened” by the charges.
“He’s one of the most dedicated public servants for the last 25 years with an impeccable reputation,” Brafman told reporters. “This is obviously a difficult day for all of us.”
But the hits kept on coming for Kruger: Senate Minority Leader John Sampson (D–Canarsie) announced last week that he’s removed Kruger from the Senate Finance Committee, where he was considered a ranking member and earned a $20,500 yearly stipend on top of his $79,500 base salary.
At the same time, political insiders were declaring Kruger’s legislative career dead on arrival.
“I looked at the complaint and there’s some heavy stuff here,” said one local politico, who wished not to be named. “There’s no question that he’s going to lose his Senate seat. The only question is if he’s going to jail.”
But the FBI investigation doesn’t just cast Kruger in a negative light. Michael Turano is also facing more than 20 years in prison and Dorothy Turano, who has not been charged, is implicated in at least one attempt to steer a development project Kruger’s way, so her role as district manager could be in jeopardy.
Federal prosecutors wouldn’t comment if they plan to charge Turano criminally for helping Kruger, but said they were looking into seizing the Bassett Avenue manse as well as a Bentley belonging to one of the Turano brothers, since money from Michael Turano’s dummy companies helped pay for both.
The investigation also revealed a personal relationship between Kruger and Michael Turano — something Kruger kept hidden, but political insiders had been chin-wagging about for years.
The complaint alleges Kruger “had an intimate relationship with” Turano.
With the recent arrests, Bharara has now criminally charged eight state lawmakers within five years — a staggering number.
But Bharara doesn’t think Albany will clean up its act anytime soon.
“We are up to our eyeballs in corruption work,” he said. “Every time we arrest a state senator or assemblymember, it should be a jarring walk-up call, but instead it seems that no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany hits the snooze button. When prosecutors charge politicians, it shouldn’t feel like a scene from ‘Groundhog Day,’ yet it does.”
News of Kruger’s arrest — and intimate relationships — sent shockwaves throughout Southern Brooklyn.
“I was taken totally by surprise,” said Sol Needle, Community Board 18’s current chairman. “I had no clue that any of this was going on. I’m shocked.”
Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Mill Basin) was also stunned by the news but came to the defense of his fellow legislator.
“Carl Kruger, just like any American, is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” Fidler explained, dispelling rumors that he’s a contender for Kruger’s Senate seat. Other possible replacements whispered included Igor Oberman, a Russian-born attorney who ended up abandoning a campaign against Kruger last year, and Democratic District Leader and former Assemblyman Frank Seddio.
Yet Seddio, a Kruger sympathizer, says he isn’t looking to replace the senator, either.
“You stand by your friends,” Seddio said. “If that is something that would hurt me, so be it. But Carl Kruger is going to fight this tooth and nail.”