The high-rolling president of America's largest municipal jail guard union was arrested on corruption charges in New York City on Wednesday, along with a prominent hedge fund tycoon who is accused of paying the union leader a sizable kickback in exchange for millions worth of investments.
FBI agents put the cuffs on Norman Seabrook, president of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, at his Bronx home at around 6am on Wednesday, according to the New York Times. Murray Huberfeld of Platinum Partners, a New York investment firm with $1.3 billion in assets, was also taken into custody.
Seabrook, who the Times noted "favors finely tailored suits and cigars and is chauffeured around the city in black SUVs," is accused of taking $60,000 in cash from Huberfeld in exchange for investing $20 million from the union's retirement and operating funds.
A 17-page criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday morning in the Southern District of New York charges Seabrook and Huberfield with one count each of honest services fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.
Seabrook has been the president of the 9,000-member jail guard union since 1995, and is said to wield extraordinary power in New York City. While he has been credited with promoting diversity in the leadership of the city's corrections department and working for better pay and benefits for jail guards, he has also derailed investigations into brutality and misconduct at Rikers Island. His influence "fed a culture of violence and corruption" at the notorious jail, according to the Times.
The arrests of Seabrook and Huberfeld are bad news for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is facing scrutiny from the feds for his campaign fundraising. Several corruption investigations are underway, and one of the key players in the union case is apparently poised to serve as a key witness in the probes into the mayor's campaign cash.
The witness, Jona Rechnitz, has pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy charges in the union case, and the criminal complaint against Seabrook and Huberfield says he is "providing information to the government in the hopes of obtaining leniency when he is sentenced." Rechnitz has donated more than $150,000 to causes supported by the mayor.
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