Sampson guilty, faces 20 years in prison

Sampson Agonistes

State Sen. John Sampson faces up to 20 years in prison after a federal jury found him guilty on three charges on July 24.

The most severe charge Sampson (D–Canarsie) was convicted of was obstruction of justice. He was also convicted on two counts of making false statements to federal agents. The 18-year incumbent was found not guilty of six other charges, but prosecutors claimed victory nonetheless.

“Sampson abused his power and violated his oath, undermining the very system of laws he was sworn to uphold. He will now be held accountable for his crimes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kelley Currie.

Prosecutors argued that Sampson, a lawyer and one-time chairman of the state Senate’s Ethics Committee, embezzled funds he held in escrow while presiding over sales of foreclosed properties, and then tried to hide it. Judge Dora L. Irizarry threw out the charge of embezzlement last October because the statute of limitations had run out, but the former state Senate minority leader was found guilty of obstructing the investigation of that charge.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation official said Sampson’s attempts to hide his corruption only exacerbated his situation.

“Sampson’s decision to engage in corrupt and illegal behavior was further aggravated by his efforts to conceal the scheme from FBI agents charged with investigating his misconduct,” the bureau’s assistant director-in-charge Diego Rodriguez stated.

The foreclosed properties in question were sold in 1999 and 2002, and Sampson allegedly stole a portion of the proceeds. Sampson got $188,500 from a friend to replace the stolen funds in 2006, while Sampson applied his power as a legislator to help the friend’s business interests, according to prosecutors.

The friend was arrested and charged with fraud in 2011, prompting Sampson to ask a paralegal he knew at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn to find out if Sampson himself was under investigation, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office. Sampson also directed the paralegal to dig up dirt on his friend’s case and told his friend that if they could discover the identities of witnesses, they could “take them out,” recommending that they hire a private investigator to do their “dirty work,” the press release states.

Even under indictment, Sampson sailed to reelection last November, winning 86 percent of the vote. He will vacate his seat in the state legislature as a result of the conviction.

Sampson could not be reached for comment.

Reach reporter Eric Faynberg at (718) 260–2508 or by e-mail at efaynberg@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ericfaynberg.