The small sliver of Melrose that is home to one of the Bronx’s fastest growing residential areas and the office of Community Board 1 is now without representation in the State Assembly.
On Jan. 13, a jury found former Assemblyman Eric Stevenson guilty of accepting $22,000 in bribes from four businessmen the government says tried to create an illegal monopoly on adult day care centers in the South Bronx.
The investigation found that Stevenson took the kickbacks between the summer of 2012 and February 2013 in exchange for promises he would draft legislation to prevent other senior centers from being built.
Preet Bharara, The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office led the probe along with the Bronx District Attorney’s office, said he hoped the guilty verdict would serve as a warning to other elected officials who may be tempted to enrich themselves through illicit schemes.
“As a unanimous jury swiftly found, Assemblyman Stevenson brazenly betrayed the public that elected him,” Bharara said in a press release, adding that the impending jail sentence “serves more importantly as a reminder of what happens to politicians who court only cash and throw their oath to the curb.”
Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson called it “fortunate that we were able to root out this corruption before this politician could do serious damage to the legislative process.”
Stevenson, 47, was elected in 2011 to represent the 79th Assembly District, which includes parts of Melrose, Morrisania and East Tremont.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 20.
The four businessmen implicated in the conspiracy, Igor Belyansky, Rostislav Belyansky, a/k/a “Slava,” Igor Tsimerman, and David Binman, previously pled guilty to wire fraud and are scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 24.
The probe found that the foursome sought Stevenson’s compliance to shut out the competition as they planned to open the Jerome Avenue Center in Highbridge and the Westchester Avenue Center during 2012 and 2013.
The report states that, in addition to offering policies for hire, Stevenson contacted Con Ed and the city’s buildings department at the businessmen’s request to expedite the construction of their senior centers. It details numerous meetings between July 2102 and Feb. 2013 at which Stevenson accepted bribes from the men, including a campaign contribution of $2,000.
In promising to push the legislation through, Stevenson told them “All you gotta do is tell me what you want in the bill, and the bill drafter will put it together,” to which Tsimerman later told a government informant that the value of their adult day care centers was “gonna skyrocket. . . . As long as [there’s a] moratorium, I can guarantee you at least a triple [in profits].”
Stevenson charged them $10,000 for the moratorium legislation, with $5,000 demanded up front, the investigation found. He accepted the advance from the government’s witness in a hotel bathroom in Albany.
On February 16, Stevenson kept his promise, introducing Bill # A05139, which places a temporary moratorium on the construction and/or opening of new adult day care centers in the city as of February 20. That bill is currently pending before the Assembly’s Committee on Aging.
Stevenson’s seat will remain vacant until a special election is held. No date has been given for the election. Stevenson had continued to represent the district while his trial loomed since the indictment was announced in April of last year.