US Justice System used to raise campaign cash in serious breach of ethics by William and Kathy Hochul
by Mike Madigan
William Hochul is the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York. Mr. Hochul has held this position since March 2010 and was previously the assistant US Attorney from 1991 through March 2010. Mr. Hochul oversees the prosecution of any federal criminal case brought within the seventeen counties of Western New York including the Buffalo Niagara region. The US Attorney’s office also represents the United States in all civil matters brought within this territory.
Mr. Hochul is a very powerful person as US Attorney for the region who has great influence over the prosecutions and or oversight of all federal cases appearing within his region. Mr. Hochul must maintain complete independence from any conflicts of interest and or the appearance of such conflicts either directly or indirectly for legal and ethical purposes.
It does not appear that US Attorney William Hochul has maintained this ethical standard, and in fact, he appears to have seriously compromised those standards impacting the integrity of the Federal cases presented within his region over which he had authority.
A clear, consistent and frequent pattern of campaign contributions to William Hochul’s wife by attorneys and individuals involved in cases over which US Attorney Hochul has influence is observed when reviewing the data. The contributions in question add up to tens of thousands of dollars. Many of these contributions occurred either on the same day or within days of William Hochul’s office taking some action on these cases.
The following is a summary of several of the cases where a conflict of interest associated with William Hochul’s office appears to exist (additional data exists for several more cases):
M&T Bank Robbery Federal Case against Joseph Licata:
On March 15, 2011 William Hochul announced the indictment of Joseph Licata for allegedly robbing two banks including M&T bank. On the same day as the indictment, Kathy Hochul received a $1000 contribution to her campaign from David Rutecki, VP of M&T Bank and three days later she received $2500 from Robert Wilmer’s Chief Executive of M&T Bank.
William Hochul held great power over defendant Joseph Licata’s indictment and the potential plea bargain that would be accepted as part of the prosecution. It could be assumed that M&T Bank’s officials would want this individual to receive the harshest possible indictment to make an example of him. Joseph Licata and his attorney’s must ask the question whether these contributions impacted his treatment by the US Attorney’s office. The acceptance of these funds on the same day and several days following the processing of this case by the US Attorney’s office presents a clear and serious conflict of interest.
Evans Bank Robbery Federal Case against Michael C. Makolinski:
On April 13, 2011 William Hochul announced the indictment of Michael C. Makolinski for allegedly robbing four banks including Evans bank. Four weeks prior to the indictment, while the Grand Jury investigation was progressing, David Nasca, CEO of Evans bank, donated $500 to Kathy Hochul and two weeks after the indictment Susan Swarts, Executive at Evans Bank donated $1000 to Kathy Hochul.
There is a clear conflict of interest that has resulted from the acceptance of these reported contributions by US Attorney William Hochul’s wife, Congresswoman Kathy Hochul. Such contributions within days of such a serious indictment of an individual who robbed Evans bank places into question the integrity of the indictment.
Tiger Woods Related Federal Case:
January 11, 2010 Tiger Woods Doctor’s assistant, Mary Anne Catalano met with US Attorney William Hochul’s office and US authorities for the purposes of seeking a plea deal in exchange for her cooperation against Dr. Galea (Woods doctor). Her lawyer on the same day (January 11, 2010) gave Hochul’s wife a $500 donation – Attorney Rodney Personius.
The receipt of a donation by US Attorney William Hochul’s wife on the same date as Catalano’s plea bargaining with US Attorney William Hochul’s office begs the question of whether she received any special treatment and presents a clear conflict of interest related to the US Attorney’s office.
Wheatfield Violent Drug Gang federal Case:
The FBI Safe Streets Task force in July 2009 made one of the Buffalo-Niagara region’s largest drug ring busts. The drug ring arrests involved over 25 individuals and the ring was reported to have operated in the region for over ten years.
The drug ring, as per the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, was involved in major cocaine and other drug distribution, fire bombings, kidnapping, violent beatings and related violent acts within the Wheatfield and Buffalo-Niagara community region over an extended period of time. This drug ring was not only involved in violent crimes, it compromised the safety and security of the community, and targeted the regions youth for recruitment and corruption for over a ten year period as per the FBI indictment.
Four of the primary leaders of this ring were: Keith Simmons, who was one of the main suppliers of the drugs and the master mind of the ring: Anthony Lamarand who was characterized by the FBI as a violent enforcer, recruiter and drug distributor within the ring, Joseph Tomasino owner and operator of JT Wheatfields Restaurant and the admitted primary drug drop off, storage and distributor for the drugs and Stephan Catone owner and operator of Papa Joe’s Pizza and an admitted second primary drug drop off point, storage and distributor for the violent drug ring.
The following is a summary of actions by the US Attorney’s office associated with this case and donations to William Hochul’s wife in close proximity to these actions:
- January 13, 2010 Kathy Hochul received $750 from Dennis C. Gaughan the lawyer of Anthony Lamarand. This payment was received one day prior to Assistant US Attorney’s office acting on Grand Jury indictments of Catone and Tomasino who were part of the same drug ring case that Lamarand was charged in. Catone and Tomasino are key witnesses in the Lamarand indictment.
- January 13, 2010 William Hochul’s wife received $500 from the law firm of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambia LLP, the law firm representing Joseph Tomasino. Tomasino’s indictment was handed down from the Grand Jury and Mr. Hochul’s office the following day. Additionally Mr. Hochul’s office would initiate making the case of forfeiture for Tomasino’s Restaurant the following day, a business that continues to operate and was incredibly never confiscated.
- June 16, 2010 Connors Vilardo LLP paid Hochul’s wife’s campaign $250. Stephan Catone’s lawyer Amy Martoche worked for this law firm and Catone’s case was being processed by Mr. Hochul’s US Attorney’s office at the time of this contribution.
- June 25, 2010 Kathy Hochul received $500 from Gaughan the day after Lamarand pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiring to distribute cocaine. Hochul’s husband’s office agreed to drop two major felony counts against this allegedly violent criminal.
- July 10, 2010 Kathy Hochul received $2500 from the law firm of Thomas H. Burton the firm representing Keith Simmons, the man characterized by the FBI as the ring leader of the violent drug ring. Mr. Hochul office granted Simmons a six month adjournment in sentencing in May 2010 and was processing Keith Simmons’ case at the time of this contribution.
- March 04, 2011 Kathy Hochul accepted $5000 from Lawyer Dennis C. Gaughan on the same day that her husband’s office petitioned to delay sentencing related to the guilty plea of Anthony Lamarand’s felony federal charge of conspiring to distribute cocaine, a case represented by Gaughan.
- March 14, 2011 Hochul’s wife’s campaign accepts $2500 from the law firm of Thomas H. Burton the firm that represents Keith Simmons, the leader of the violent drug ring. Mr. Hochul’s office continues to work on this and related cases to this drug ring.
- April 01, 2011 Kathy Hochul again accepted $500 from the law firm Connors Vilardo LLP, the law firm that had just completed the case of Stephan Catone before Mrs. Hochul’s Husbands office. The successful businessman Catone shockingly received only a reprimand from the judge and probation for his significant involvement in the violent drug ring.
As a result of these contributions there are serious questions that must be asked of US Attorney William Hochul:
- Why did the US attorney drop two of the three major felonies charges against Anthony Lamarand? The US Attorney’s office and FBI reported they had a wealth of evidence of Lamarand being a violent drug dealer.
- How has two major participants (Catone and Tomasino) in what the FBI characterized as a violent drug ring that presented a clear and present danger to their communities and who faced 20 years prison and $500,000 in fines been allowed to only pay minimal fines, and received only probation?
- How has two major participants (Catone and Tomasino) in what the FBI characterized as a violent drug ring that presented a clear and present danger to their communities who admitted storing and distributing these drugs through their businesses been allowed to keep these same businesses?
Federal Social Security Cases:
William Hochul’s wife received a $5000 contribution from William C. Bernhardi, a Buffalo lawyer who specializes in Social Security disability claims. Hochul’s husband’s office is characterized by Bernhardi as being typically a fierce adversary against these cases when they are presented in Federal court, as per the Buffalo News. Bernhardi would benefit financially from any case that he won.
Federal Medicaid and Medicare Fraud Case:
January 6, 2011 William Holley, a Buffalo podiatrist who was accused of defrauding Medicare and Medicaid on numerous occasions, accepted a plea deal from William Hochul’s US District Attorney’s office reducing his counts from 28 to only one count of Health Fraud. Holley faced an April 13th sentencing date in which federal sentencing guidelines suggest a 10-12 month sentence. Just prior to his sentencing his attorney contributed $500 to US Attorney William Hochul’s wife and his office gave an additional $1000 to her, all paid on March 18, 2011. Holley received a six month sentence.
New York State has a history of powerful people believing they are untouchable and able to breach ethical boundaries and/or the law with no consequences. All too frequently the institutions, such as the news media, enable such corruption to continue by not properly or fully investigating, or failing to properly report such activities.
The acceptance of these contributions clearly has the appearance of impropriety and conflict of interest on the part of the US Attorney’s office. The fact that some of these cases directly involve the safety and security of the community and our children and possibly the fair and consistent application of the US justice system for accused individuals, warrants the need for further review. The US Justice Department and Congressional Ethics Committee must conduct a complete and thorough review of this matter to determine if further action is required to address these concerns and determine what impact these breaches may have had on these cases and the integrity of our legal system.