We have this daily segment on the Lisa Wexler Show called "the 5-1-1." Like the "9-1-1," it's a call to action, a call to outrageousness, a call to out and oust the white collar bullies that permeate our lives. Sometimes it's a politician, sometimes it's a principal of a school. We started this on January 1st, and I've been astonished at how easy it has been to find one, almost every single day. But yesterday's 5-1-1 was special, even for me. I'm thinking of changing the name of the show to "You Can't Make It Up." Even if you could, no one would believe you.
If the prosecutor is right, the facts are as follows. Please read the word allegedly into all of this to spare me the trouble of inserting it.
NY State Senator John Sampson, by all accounts a pretty influential guy, turned himself into the FBI yesterday because he got the word he was going to be arrested anyway. What the hell, he probably figured, I'll try one more time to make myself look good. This guy is a master at it.
According to the feds, Sampson stole a whole bunch of money, $440,000, from escrow money he was holding as an attorney. That money, by definition, did not belong to him. In fact a judge named Sampson as trustee in a lawsuit so that, as trustee, Sampson could be trusted with holding the money pending the outcome. So much for the trust part of trustee.
Why did Sampson need so much money? To run for District Attorney of Brooklyn, of course! Naturally the guy who wants to be the numero uno lawyer in the Borough, the one who gets to decide which bad guys to prosecute and which to leave alone, would steal money to finance his campaign. Naturally.
Thankfully, Sampson lost.
But, having spent money that didn't belong to him, Sampson got worried. At some point, he knew that judge would come looking for the missing money. What to do? Here's an idea- find a client and buddy who is already being investigated by the Feds for mortgage fraud and tap him for an easy couple of hundred grand as a "loan". Sounds like a plan. According to the indictment, Mr. Edul Ahmad was only too happy to oblige. Did I mention that Senator Sampson was also on the State Ethics Committee? Oh, and that he was appointed Leader of the Democratic State Senate Conference in 2009?
It gets better.
According to the indictment, Sampson made a friend in the U.S. attorney's office. A good friend. This guy is described as a mole, secretly leaking to Sampson the status of the investigation against him. Naturally, Sampson wanted the names of those witnesses who were prepared to testify against him. Naturally, Sampson told the mole that he intended to "take them out". Wouldn't you?
By the way, is "take them out" the same as "rub them out"? I'm a little rusty on my crime slang.
Yesterday, after turning himself in, NY State Senator John Sampson was charged with embezzlement, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
If the facts weren't so comically sad, we might take a moment to get angry, or at least righteously indignant. Every corrupt politician truly injures all of us. Every time a bribe is required to do business, it requires the honest guy to back out. The guy who wants to be able to sleep at night can't do business with the government, which is easily the largest single payer for goods and services in the country. The guy who will pay the bribe is likely to cut corners where it counts, in worker safety, in the quality of our roads, bridges and buildings. Look at China to see how business corruption has killed kids- it tainted their milk, forced them to attend school in substandard buildings that fell during earthquakes, caused roads to collapse.
Why was Sampson was finally caught? Thank you to State Senator, Shirley Huntley, who has apparently been wearing a wire for the feds for months. To save her own skin against charges of bribery and embezzlement, Huntley fingered other pols doing the same thing. I'm telling you, You Can't Make This Up.