Hochuls’ Conflicts of Interest: Return and Recuse

September 9, 2011

Hochul to return funds involved in conflict of interest scandal – Compromised US Attorney must be recused from cases
By: Mike Madigan

As the pay to play scandal unravels on Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and her husband, US Attorney William Hochul Jr., she and her staff have committed to reviewing her contributions and returning the funds that have the appearance of impropriety.

A serious concern arises as these funds are returned. If the appearance of a conflict of interest exists between payments to the Hochul campaign, her US Attorney husband and the person making these payments, then the US Attorney is obligated to recuse himself from the case to maintain the integrity of the federal judicial system.

It has been revealed that following an interview of Kathy Hochul by The Buffalo News reporter Jerry Zremski in early May that Hochul on May 8, 2011, the day prior to the release of the related Zremski article regarding questionable contributions, returned one of nine highly suspect contributions that she received over a 15 month period associated with the Anthony Lamarand violent drug gang federal court case.

Zremski chose to report on only two of the nine contributions associated with the Lamarand case and chose not to report on the refunded contribution, its donor or the associated conflict of interest. Additionally Zremski chose not to report on tens of thousands of dollars of other similar contributions involving a number of major federal court cases where a clear conflict of interest exists, that he was made aware of through several communications in May.

The contributions in question were made to US Attorney William Hochul’s wife’s campaign in close proximity to related activity at the US Attorney’s office. In a number of cases, the contribution happened within hours or days of substantial related activity by the US Attorney’s office.

An investigation of Kathy Hochul’s campaign contributions has revealed a frequent pattern of money flowing into her account from individuals with considerable business involving the US Attorney’s office. More than $50,000 in contributions appears to be involved over a number of major cases appearing before the US Attorney.

An example of this pattern is the case of Anthony Lamarand who was alleged to be a violent major drug dealer involved in weekly distribution of kilo quantities of cocaine, violent assaults, attempted kidnappings and fire-bombings. The US Attorney’s office and the FBI Safe Streets Division alleged that the Lamarand drug gang posed a clear and present danger to the Western New York community.

In the Lamarand case, nine different payments were made to Hochul’s campaign over a 15 month period. Four of those payments were from Lamarand’s own lawyer and his lawyer’s wife.

Three of the four payments by Lamarand’s lawyer to Kathy Hochul’s campaign occurred within hours of significant activity by the US Attorney, relating to these cases.  These three payments were consecutive and spread out by greater than six months each.

Based on statistical assessment of the Lamarand Lawyer payments, it is highly probable that the timing of these payments were directly related to the activity by the US Attorney’s office creating a serious conflict of interest for the US Attorney and his wife.

Following an interview by The Buffalo News reporter Jerry Zremski and prior to the release of the Zremski article on May 9th 2011, Kathy Hochul refunded one of the nine Lamarand violent drug gang case related payments.

Congresswoman Hochul chose to refund just one of the two payments by the violent drug gang member Anthony Catone’s legal team Connors Vilardo LLP.   Hochul failed to return the seven additional payments associated with this case that she accepted.

In the Anthony Catone case there was undercover evidence, wiretap evidence and Anthony Catone’s own confession that he was a major drug dealer in the violent gang. He confessed to storing, distributing and dealing drugs from his place of business. Shockingly Catone was allowed to retain his business and he received only probation and no prison term for his involvement in an enterprise that posed a clear and present danger to the community as per the FBI and US Attorney’s office.

The extremely lenient sentencing of Catone is dramatically different from and contrary to sentencing guidelines for such cases. This same dramatic divergence from sentencing guidelines is observed repeatedly and consistently associated with cases where money was contributed to the Hochul campaign.

In an interview on August 26th with Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, in response to my request that she review a list of contributions and return any that may have the appearance of impropriety, Congresswoman Hochul stated “If you e-mail it I will see it.  I will look into it. The integrity of my office is important to me.”  Jerry Zremski as well reported in the Buffalo News on May 9th 2011 that Hochul stated “If there was anything with an appearance of impropriety, I would simply return the checks,” she said.

Congresswoman Hochul’s staff on the 30th of August confirmed in a conference call that they will review the cases I have reported. The staff member acknowledged the basis for my concerns and committed to respond back to me their findings of their review and that they would return any contributions with an appearance of impropriety.

As the alleged pay to play scandal continues to unravel on Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and her husband US Attorney William Hochul Jr., a review must occur relative to the potential impact on current federal court cases involved. In the Case of the Lamarand drug gang cases, William Hochul must be recused from these cases immediately and they must be assigned to an uncompromised US Attorney.


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