PHOTO: Disgraced former state Sen. John Sampson. Photo Courtesy of New York Senate
Former state Senate Minority Leader John Sampson last Friday was convicted in Brooklyn federal court of one count of obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements to federal agents for his role in the theft of funds he held in escrow from the sale of real estate properties.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Sampson, concerned that his theft might be discovered by authorities, asked an associate for $188,500 to replenish the stolen funds. In exchange, Sampson, whose 19th Senate District seat represents a small portion of Ozone Park, used his position as a senator to assist the associate’s real estate business interests.
In the summer of 2011, the associate was arrested and charged by the Eastern District U.S. Attorney with bank and wire fraud. Sampson, 50, feared that the associate might cooperate with the government and disclose Sampson’s theft, so Sampson contacted a close personal friend, who was also a supervisory paralegal in the Eastern District office, and asked him to find out if Sampson was under investigation and to obtain confidential information about the associate’s case, including the identities of cooperating witnesses. The paralegal agreed and reported his findings to Sampson.
Sampson told his associate about his source and added that if they could determine the identities of cooperating witnesses in the associate’s case, they could “take them out.” Sampson also suggested that they hire a private investigator to do the “dirty work.”
Sampson then directed his associate to withhold from the government evidence regarding the $188,500 payment. At a February 2012 meeting at Vetro Restaurant and Lounge in Howard Beach, the associate told Sampson that the government had subpoenaed the associate’s business records, including a check register page documenting the payment. The associate showed the page to Sampson, who examined it and stated, “That’s a problem . . . I mean for me.” Sampson kept the page and instructed his associate not to disclose it to the government.
On July 27, 2012, FBI agents interviewed Sampson, and he denied being familiar with the check register page. He also falsely denied directing his Senate staffers to take certain actions relating to regulatory issues for a liquor store in which Sampson held an ownership interest. At the conclusion of the interview, the agents advised Sampson that he had lied to federal agents, which constituted a federal crime. When asked whether he wished to revise his statement, Sampson stated, “Not everything I told you was false.”
Sampson faces up to 20 years in prison.
By Michael V. Cusenza