Brooklyn judge arrested for allegedly aiding embezzlement scheme

Brooklyn judge arrested for allegedly aiding embezzlement scheme
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Federal authorities arrested a Brooklyn judge at Laguardia Airport on Friday for allegedly obstructing an investigation into a multibillion-dollar financial institution — where she once served as chairwoman of the board.

Supreme Court Justice Sylvia Ash allegedly destroyed evidence and lied to investigators about millions of dollars of embezzled funds from Municipal Credit Union — the largest credit union in New York State — according to prosecutors at the Southern District of New York.

Ash — who was first elected as a Civil court judge in 2006 — had worked a side-gig on the credit union’s board of directors between 2008 and 2016, which paid her “tens of thousands of dollars” annually, prosecutors said.

Even after her resignation from the board, Credit Union leadership continued to provide Ash with various benefits, “such as Apple devices,” according to authorities.

In 2018, prosecutors approached the judge about an investigation into Municipal Credit Union’s President and CEO Kam Wong — who allegedly perpetrated an elaborate fraud scheme to steal millions of dollars in funds from the financial institution, authorities said.

But instead of cooperating, Ash allegedly provided false testimony to cover for Wong, and destroyed her credit union-issued cell phone to hide evidence from investigators, according to prosecutors.

“As alleged, Sylvia Ash, a sitting state court judge, took repeated steps to obstruct a federal investigation into significant financial misconduct at [Municipal Credit Union] during Ash’s tenure as chair of the board of directors,” said United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

Wong ended up pleading guilty to one count of embezzlement in 2018, according to prosecutors.

The judge was out of town when investigators notified Ash about a warrant for her arrest on Thursday, and she boarded an inbound flight to Laguardia airport, where she was arrested on Friday morning, authorities said.

She was charged along with a former New York City police officer, 62-year-old Joseph Guagliardo, who is separately charged with operating a fraudulent security company which took over $450,000 from the credit union — in exchange for performing no actual work.

Ash — who was slapped with obstruction and conspiracy charges — faces up to 45 years in prison if she is found guilty of all charges.

Prior to her arrest, Brooklyn Paper’s Standing O column saluted the Supreme Court justice on several occasions, including for her work educating attorneys regarding the state’s jury-selection process, distinctions she received from the Brooklyn Bar Association in 2018, and her brief stint as a fashion model earlier this year.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.