Lobbyist: I bribed Kruger

A solemn-faced state Sen. Carl Kruger (right) arrives at Manhattan federal court on Tuesday with his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman.
Photo by Bess Adler

A deep-pocketed lobbyist who worked for Forest City Ratner Companies admitted to funneling more than $250,000 in bribes to former state Sen. Carl Kruger in an attempt to buy favor for his clients from the disgraced rep.

Richard Lipsky, who was employed by the developer of the Atlantic Yards arena and residential high-rise project for five years, told Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rackoff that he had an “implicit agreement” with Kruger that payment to the senator — which he euphemized as “referral fees” — would benefit his clients.

“I felt obliged to keep Kruger happy, and so I willingly agreed to pay the referral fees,” Lipsky, 64, said as he pled guilty to bribery during a brief court appearance on Wednesday, adding that he knew the payments to the consulting companies run by Kruger’s alleged lover, Michael Turano, guaranteed that Kruger would “take official action as a member of the New York State Senate to benefit me, my family and my business.”

But Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Lipsky should have influenced Kruger with “the power of his arguments, not the power of his checkbook.”

“For too long and in too many ways, corruption has warped government in New York State and New York City,” Bharara said. “We want to root out that corruption and restore the public’s faith in its government and its leaders.”

Lipsky is facing a maximum of 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced in May.

Before his arrest, Lipsky’s clients list included unions, restaurant associations, retail stores, and supermarket chains.

One of his biggest clients was Forest City, which paid Lipsky $4,000 a month to help line up legislative support for its many real estate development projects. Forest City also paid him an additional $2,750 a month to promote the Atlantic Yards project.

That all changed last March when Forest City fired Lipsky once he was indicted for bribing Kruger.

No one from Forest City was ever indicated or charged in the Kruger bribery scandal — and it is unclear if the company knew what Lipsky was doing.

“The [federal complaint against Kruger and Lipsky] in no way says or suggests that we behaved in an inappropriate manner,” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco explained.

Lipsky’s confession was a lot more formal than Kruger’s. The disgraced legislator wept openly when he admitted to taking more than $1 million in bribes from Lipsky and others.

“I apologize if I’m a little emotional right now,” he told Judge Rakoff, his voice trembling, on Dec. 20. “I accept responsibility for my actions and am truly sorry for conduct.”

Kruger, who resigned from the senate hours before he pled guilty, is facing up to 50 years in prison when he’s sentenced in April.

Reach reporter Thomas Tracy at ttracy@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2525.

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