Second Bronx legislator also implicated in scheme
State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, who has represented Melrose since January, 2011, has been charged with taking $20,000 in bribes to expedite the opening of two daycare centers in the South Bronx, and to craft legislation that would have steamrolled the competition.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, announced the indictment of Stevenson and four co-defendants in a press conference on Thursday, alleging that Igor Belyansky, Rostislav Belyansky a/k/a “Slava,” David Binman and Igor Tsimerman paid Stevenson in several installments between January 2012 and Feb. 16 of this year in return for the Assemblyman’s help establishing a monopoly on senior residences in the area.
Stevenson was elected to represent District 79, which comprises Melrose and a part of Tremont and Concourse Village, in 2010 and re-elected last November to his second two-year term.
According to the criminal complaint, another Bronx Assemblyman, Nelson Castro, and an unnamed former candidate for the Assembly were also involved in the scheme. Both have been cooperating with the government in exchange for leniency. In return, Castro, who has agreed to give up his Assembly seat, will escape felony charges.
Stevenson, the complaint alleges, accepted bribes to pressure Con Ed to hurry a gas line hookup to one planned senior center, the Jerome Avenue Center, and to push the city’s Department of Buildings to expedite a certificate of occupancy. Prosecutors also allege he held events to recruit seniors for the other center, the Westchester Avenue Center in Parkchester.
In addition, Stevenson agreed to craft legislation that would take effect next July, imposing a moratorium on the construction of new adult daycare centers in the area, the complaint charges.
One recording from a January 2013 meeting between Stevenson and the government witness indicates Stevenson had begun to suspect the government investigators were wise to the plot. He told the witness that he suspected that one of the co-defendants was secretly taping the conversations, and warned “They bring me down. . . somebody’s going to the cemetery.”
The Jerome Avenune Center opened on March 7.
The charges come just two days after the U.S. Attorney’s office indicted Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith for bribing the Bronx Republican leader Jay Savino and others in an effort to rig the Republican primary for mayor.
“For the second time in three days, we unseal criminal charges against a sitting member of our state legislature,” Bharara said. “The allegations illustrate the corruption of an elected representative’s core function-–a legislator selling legislation.” He added, “it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the sad conclusion that political corruption in New York is indeed rampant and that a show-me-the-money culture in Albany is alive and well.”
Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said, “What is most disturbing here is that an elected official allegedly acted not only to personally enrich himself, but was willing to limit the community’s access to a needed service by advancing legislation designed to effectively bar any other providers of day care for seniors from operating” in the area.
On Stevenson’s website, the Assemblyman states that “reforming” the communities he represents, remains “a work in progress,” and that “the district is viewed as a bleak portrait of the old South Bronx percolating with crime, drugs and now gang activity due to lack of needed programs and poverty-stricken neighborhoods.”