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Attorney General Schneiderman announces felony indictment of Ortt and Maziarz


Thu, Mar 23rd 2017 02:00 pm

Ortt indicted on 3 felony counts related to alleged pass-through scheme devised to supplement taxpayer-funded salary with payments to spouse for no-show job

Maziarz indicted on 5 counts for allegedly orchestrating scheme to use campaign cash to secretly pay staff member involved with sexual harassment lawsuit

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Thursday announced the unsealing of an indictment charging New York State Sen. Robert Ortt with three felony counts of filing a false instrument in the first degree. Ortt's predecessor in the state senate, former State Sen. George Maziarz, was also charged in the indictment with five felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.

All of the charges are Class E felonies. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of one and one-third to four years on each count. The case was referred to the Office of the Attorney General by the State Board of Elections.

According to the indictment and papers filed in court on Wednesday, Maziarz is alleged to have orchestrated a multilayered pass-through scheme that enabled him to use money from his own campaign committee, The Committee to Elect Maziarz State Senate, and also from the Niagara County Republican Committee, to funnel secret campaign payments to a former senate staffer who had left government service amid charges of sexual harassment. According to court filings, the two committees paid the former government staff member $49,000 in 2012 and $46,000 in 2013-14. To conceal these payments - and to avoid public scrutiny of his decision to retain the former staffer for campaign-related work - Maziarz, acting with others, allegedly falsely reported the expenditures on five separate filings with the New York State Board of Elections as payments to pass-through entities, rather than to the staff member, in clear violation of New York State law.

The court filings and the indictment further allege that, while serving as mayor of North Tonawanda, Ortt participated in an illegal scheme to pad his taxpayer-funded salary. As papers filed with the court allege, in order to make up for a $5,000 reduction in annual salary Ortt would be paid as Mayor (Ortt previously served as town clerk/treasurer), Ortt and others devised a pass-through scheme to pay Ortt's wife for a job for which she performed no actual work. Ortt's wife received approximately $21,500 from 2010-14 as part of the scheme. It is alleged that the payments to Ortt's wife were falsely reported as payments to one of the same pass-through entities that was used to pay for the former Senate staff member for Maziarz.

"No-show jobs and secret payments are the lifeblood of public corruption. New Yorkers deserve full and honest disclosures by their elected officials - not the graft and shadowy payments uncovered by our investigation. These allegations represent a shameful breach of the public trust - and we will hold those responsible to account," Schneiderman said.

Adam S. Cohen, special agent in charge of the FBI's Buffalo office, said, "As we have seen too often in Western New York, this case presents another instance when public officials served their own interests instead of those to whom they were positioned to serve. The defendants are alleged to have chosen greed over good, and their behavior compromised the integrity of government. It is the expectation of the public that government officials are not in their positions to self-deal."‚Äč

"Campaign finance disclosure ensures New Yorkers have confidence that their elected officials are serving them honestly and with transparency, said Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement counsel for the New York State Board of Elections. "The public has the right to know how their representatives spend the contributions they receive, and that the disclosures are honest and accurate. We will continue to work together with the attorney general to assure New Yorkers that violations of the public trust do not go unpunished."

Schneiderman also announced the guilty plea of Henry Wojtaszek. Wojtaszek is a former chairman of the Niagara County Republican Committee, a former attorney for the City of North Tonawanda, and the current president of the Western Region Off-Track Betting Corp. of New York. Wojtaszek pleaded guilty on Wednesday to violating Election Law Section 14-126-4, a class A misdemeanor, before Judge Gary F. Stiglemeier in Albany City Court.

Assistant Attorneys General Daniel Bajger and Christopher Baynes of the attorney general's Public Integrity Bureau are prosecuting this case under the supervision of Public Integrity Bureau Chief Daniel Cort and Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. 

This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Buffalo, along with David Buske of the Attorney General's Investigators Bureau, which is led by Deputy Chief Antoine Karam and Chief Dominick Zarrella. Legal analyst Sara Pogorzelski also worked on the matter.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

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