Staffer to Sunset Park Assemblyman arrested for allegedly embezzling campaign funds

Staffer to Sunset Park Assemblyman arrested for allegedly embezzling campaign funds
Photo by Aidan Graham

Federal investigators arrested a high-ranking staff member for Sunset Park Assemblyman Félix Ortiz for allegedly embezzling $80,000 in campaign funds, authorities announced on Thursday.

Maruf Alam, 29, has served as Ortiz’s chief of staff since 2015, according to state expenditure reports, which list Alam’s official title as “office director.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigations cuffed the Kensington resident on Aug. 8, charging him with wire fraud for purportedly stealing the funds from a campaign bank account, according to investigators.

According to a federal complaint, Alam, acting as the treasurer for a campaign account belonging to an unnamed Assembly member, filed false disclosure forms with the New York State Board of Elections between January 2012 and January 2019 and that inaccurately disclosed both contributions and expenses related to the account.

As an example, disclosures filed by the account’s campaign committee reported more than $5,700 in expenditures between Jan. 18 and Oct. 1, 2012, while a review of the campaign account’s records show more than $38,000 in expenses, including $34,000 in cash withdrawals, according to prosecutors.

Investigators also uncovered checks written to Alam from the campaign account, including a $3,800 note from May 17, 2018, and a $3,700 check from Jan. 15, 2019, neither of which were reported to the Board of Elections, prosecutors claim.

Financial disclosure reports show Ortiz’s campaign account balance listed at just over $156,000 as of January.

Ortiz released a statement at 2:30 p.m. Thursday acknowledging the charges against his staffer.

“I am just now being made aware of the charges against my staff member. I do not have any further information, and cannot comment at this time,” he said.

A constituent services liaison who answered the phone at Ortiz’s district office in Sunset Park said she was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Ortiz was first elected to the Assembly 1994, and currently serves as Assistant Speaker of the state’s lower legislative chamber.

Magistrate Judge Steven Tiscione released Alam on $100,000 bail guaranteed by a lean on his mother’s house following his arraignment Thursday.

After the hearing, an old rival of Alam’s spoke to reporters outside the federal courthouse, where he claimed Ortiz’s top staffer threatened him during a 2014 re-election campaign.

“He physically threatened me. He stalked my friends, and was all around a disgusting person,” said 29-year-old Jorge Muniz, who worked for Ortiz’s opponent, Community 7 Chairman Caesar Zuniga, at the time. “He told me…‘if the police weren’t here, I would skin you alive.’”

Alam declined to comment.

– Additional reporting by Colin Mixson

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agrah[email protected]hnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.