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A close associate of former state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio testified before a federal judge Tuesday that the corrupt Richmond Hill politician used her organization to bilk funds from other groups and ruined not only their friendship but her business when he did not get his way.
Although Tuesday was to be the day Seminerio was to find out his punishment for illegally lobbying state health officials through a fake consulting firm, federal prosecutors began a set of pre-sentencing hearings that allowed U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald to hear from various witnesses who painted a more detailed picture of his schemes.
Arlene Pedone, a former campaign worker and business associate, took the stand against him.
“We have the opportunity to show that there is a bit of evidence against Mr. Seminerio,” prosecutor Bill Harrington said in Manhattan federal court.
Seminerio resigned from office and pleaded guilty to fraud charges in June following a massive investigation by the federal government that included testimony from former Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, who was convicted of federal corruption charges last year. Seminerio created a phony consulting company called Marc Consultants that he used to illegally extort money from Queens groups in exchange for favorable legislation, the government said.
He took money from administrators from Jamaica Hospital to acquire an undisclosed hospital and act in their favor for a health-related Assembly bill. according to his plea.
Harrington played a portion of a recorded conversation between McLaughlin and Seminerio in the fall of 2007. Seminerio told the Flushing Democrat, who was wearing a wire for the feds, how easy it was to extort health officials with his consulting firm.
“I don’t have to do nothing except meet with hospital CEOs and ask them for favors,” he said. “I was doing favors for the sons of b------.”
Pedone, who had worked for Seminerio as finance chairwoman for his election committees in the 1980s, took the stand to say how he ruined her consulting firm, Neighborhood Marketing Services. Pedone, 72, started the Jamaica group in 1996 along with her daughter and contracted Seminerio to do work for the organization to help educate Queens groups on Medicaid policies.
She said Seminerio got permission from the Assembly’s ethics board and she paid him $25,000 a year.
The longtime community activist said Seminerio forced her to pay him for doing consulting work with the nonprofit group HeartShare Human Services sometime in the mid-’90s.
“He went to HeartShare and demanded that my bills be sent to him and he would not release the checks until I paid him,” she testified.
In 1998, the relationship between the two soured after the elected official asked for 50 percent of the group’s profits and claimed he “made the company,” according to Pedone.
“I told him the company was owned by me and my daughter and there was no room for anyone else outside of contract work,” she said.
Pedone testified after that incident Seminerio sent out letters to various constituents and her clients, saying the two were not doing business and that he set up Marc Consultants, his own firm. Eventually Neighborhood Marketing Services lost nearly 70 percent of its annual revenue, according to Pedone.
She said she was upset and devastated by Seminerio’s behavior because she had treated him like “a brother” for decades.
“After all the years of working together, my volunteer time running his campaigns, all of a sudden this came up,” Pedone said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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