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Baldeo plans to fight election fraud charge

TimesLedger Newspapers

After turning himself in to the FBI last week amid charges of fraud and obstruction, former City Council candidate and current Queens District Leader Albert Baldeo is firing back at his critics.

Lawyers for the embattled Baldeo released a statement this week charging that “the government has expended tremendous resources to harass and target him for a City Council campaign in which he received no public funds.”

Baldeo, 52, a Democrat and attorney from Ozone Park, is accused of using fake donors for his campaign to receive matching funds from the city. He is also charged with obstructing the government’s investigation, according to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District in Manhattan.

“As alleged, Queens District Leader Albert Baldeo was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances — including engaging in a scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws by funneling his own money through straw donors,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “Baldeo even allegedly used fear and intimidation to prevent others from exposing his conduct. As today’s charges demonstrate, we will not sit idly by and allow candidates for elected office to corrupt the electoral process or the administration of justice.”

The charges stem from an unsuccessful run for the 28th Council District seat in 2010, when Baldeo lost in the special election to now-Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica). He also ran for Council in 2005 and state Senate the following year.

The FBI alleges Baldeo provided money orders or cash to individuals to contribute in their own name, the U.S. attorney said. After discovering he was under investigation, Baldeo instructed the straw donors to “provide false information to, or not cooperate with, the FBI agents who were investigating contributions to his campaign,” according to investigators.

But Baldeo’s attorneys said the federal government is railroading the district leader into an unnecessary criminal case.

“This case represents another example of overreaching by prosecutors,” Baldeo’s attorney said in a statement. “We intend to vindicate Mr. Baldeo’s good name and commendable civil service. We regret, however, that the government will force this well-intentioned community servant to suffer the emotional and financial costs and family hardships that criminal litigation entails.”

A second statement on Baldeo’s behalf also came from Concerned Leaders of South East Queens, a Richmond Hill-based civic group, which called the charges a “which hunt” and said the government’s action “sends the wrong message to minorities that we will be vilified and destroyed if we run for office.”

Baldeo, who is Indo-Guyanese, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, one count of attempting to commit mail fraud, one count of conspiring to obstruct justice and one count of obstruction of justice. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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