Late Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced, "I have accepted Brian Benjamin's resignation effective immediately. While the legal process plays out, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as lieutenant governor. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them."
Earlier in the day, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Michael J. Driscoll, and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation Jocelyn E. Strauber announced Benjamin was charged with bribery and related offenses.
In particular, Benjamin is charged with bribery, honest services wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit those offenses, based on his use of his official authority while a New York state senator to direct a state-funded grant to an organization controlled by a real estate developer (“CC-1”) in exchange for campaign contributions made and procured by CC-1. Benjamin is also charged with two counts of falsifying records in connection with the preparation of contribution forms that falsely reported certain contributions made by CC-1 as being made by other individuals, and false statements Benjamin made in a questionnaire he submitted while seeking to become lieutenant governor.
Benjamin surrendered to the FBI in Manhattan and was presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken. Benjamin is presumed innocent unless found guilty in a court of law.
Williams said, “As alleged, Brian Benjamin used his power as a New York state senator to secure a state-funded grant in exchange for contributions to his own political campaigns. By doing so, Benjamin abused his power and effectively used state funds to support his political campaigns. My office and our partners at the FBI and DOI will continue to ensure that politicians who put themselves over the public interest will be prosecuted.”
Driscoll said, “Exploiting one’s official authority by allocating state funds as part of a bribe to procure donations to a political campaign, and engaging in activity to cover up the bribe, is illegal. As we allege today, Benjamin’s conduct in this scheme directly circumvents those procedures put in place to keep our systems fair.”
Strauber said, “As charged, Lt. Gov. Benjamin, while a New York state senator, used his official position to obtain donations to his political campaigns. He allegedly allocated public grant funds to a nonprofit controlled by a co-conspirator in exchange for campaign contributions, and then lied to hide this illegal scheme. In so doing, he served his own interests at the expense of his constituents, a betrayal of the public trust and a violation of federal law. DOI stands with our law enforcement partners in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the FBI in the fight to expose and prevent corruption.”
New York State Sen. and Republican Leader Rob Ortt said, “Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin’s arrest today on federal corruption charges is another stain on New York state government, and calls into question Gov. Hochul’s judgment.
“Over the past few days and weeks, Kathy Hochul and the majorities in Albany have reinforced their support for Brian Benjamin despite news of federal investigations. Gov. Hochul said herself this morning that she’s “changed the culture of Albany.” Unfortunately, it looks like business as usual in our State Capitol.
“Kathy Hochul and Senate Democrats might tolerate this corruption, but New Yorkers don’t and neither do I.”
New York GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said, “In her first major decision as governor, Kathy Hochul chose a dirty politician to serve as her partner in government and running mate. Brian Benjamin’s shady dealings and corruption were well-documented, but Hochul turned a blind eye and put him a heartbeat away from the governorship. This decision was not just dangerous incompetence, it is proof that her tolerance for corruption runs deep in her veins, which is no surprise given she dutifully served with Andrew Cuomo for seven years. Just days ago, she continued to say she had ‘full confidence in him.’ She does not possess the judgment nor the moral code to serve as governor. The only way to wipe clean the Cuomo-Hochul stench is to throw the entire corrupt cabal out of office this November.”