December 5, 2023


Gets In Done On Time

The Harlem investor in the Benjamin campaign finance plan

Picture: Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock

Lieutenant Governor Brian A. Benjamin resigned this afternoon, just hrs immediately after he was arrested and charged in Manhattan federal court with bribery, fraud, and falsification of information in link with his unsuccessful 2021 operate for New York Metropolis comptroller. The indictment accuses Benjamin of conspiring “to direct a condition-funded grant to an business controlled by a actual estate developer in exchange for marketing campaign contributions.” Benjamin also, in accordance to the indictment, “engaged in a sequence of lies and deceptions” to include factors up, like lying on his background verify. The Harlem authentic-estate trader, Gerald Migdol, who was arrested for his job in the plan this previous November and was determined in the indictment only as “CC-1,” short for “co-conspirator 1,” has apparently been cooperating. Migdol, who went on a brownstone buying spree in the 1990s and early 2000s, appears to have centered his more new attempts on producing political connections. But who is he? And what particularly is he accused of carrying out?

The scheme
In January 2021, the Metropolis claimed on a variety of irregularities in contributions to Benjamin’s campaign for comptroller, among them a range of $250 wire-transfer contributions from people today who, when contacted, claimed they experienced no idea who Benjamin even was. 1 transfer was created in the identify of Migdol’s 2-calendar year-previous grandson. All arrived by way of an middleman, Michael Murphy, who works at one particular of Migdol’s nonprofits, Buddies of General public University Harlem. Prosecutors later alleged that Migdol possibly compensated for or refunded contributions from a lot of other folks. The illegal contributions also would have — underneath New York City’s generous campaign-funding plan, in which the first $100 of every donation is perhaps eligible for $800 in matching general public dollars — been a way to steal taxpayer revenue. “Campaign finance-board data exhibit Benjamin’s campaign recognized 21 of the contributions Murphy steered to Benjamin as match-qualified — introducing up to $16,800 in feasible community pounds,” in accordance to the Town.

Migdol’s real-estate vocation
A New York native and son of a plumber who went to a Queens University and Benjamin Cardozo Law School, Migdol began creating genuine-estate investments just after graduating from legislation school in 1979, acquiring and rehabbing properties on the Lower East Facet with his father, in accordance to a 2006 profile in Genuine Estate Weekly. “Essentially, we appeared for the worst structures on the very best blocks in spots that we felt would adjust,” Migdol claimed. He shut down his organization in 1990 when the industry crashed and went to perform for GFI Realty, and in the mid-’90s began obtaining properties once again — this time, Harlem brownstones, which ended up conveniently offered for comparatively tiny money. He begun the Migdol Group in 2002. At initially, he turned the homes into multi-device rentals, but he started off carrying out apartment conversions all-around 2006, a shift he told the New York Put up was spurred by the increasing charge of brownstones. “When I commenced shopping for in 2001 they have been $200,000 and $300,000, and now it is $1 million for a shell,” he claimed. “If you want to make revenue, the magic formula is to invest in lower and sell high.” (That is not specifically a key, but it’s true nonetheless.)

Migdol does not feel to have registered as a drive with the city’s more potent true-estate players, and the Migdol Organization’s web-site has no information and facts about its holdings or investments. It describes Migdol as “a Harlem primarily based organization that supplies specialized services in housing, improvement, social get the job done and law. By its subsidiaries, the Migdol Group develops, manages, brokers and owns different forms of authentic estate in the course of New York City.” It does, having said that, have a quotation, allegedly from Hillary Clinton (it’s attainable Migdol was a massive Democratic donor): “I’m so amazed with the Migdols’ business enterprise product of a genuinely assorted company that brings together income and non-income organizations in 1 business.” In a video clip on the web-site, Migdol, sitting down up coming to his wife, Sheri Perl, describes the enterprise as however it were a social-products and services group “that gives housing, stability, legal products and services for the community and for the homeless population.” Primarily the entirety of the site is devoted to the organization’s nonprofit operate, with no indications of where by or how it can make its income.

Chummy with politicians 
By means of contributions as very well as numerous nonprofits that donate supplies to Harlem general public universities and give out turkeys at Thanksgiving, Migdol has cultivated his political interactions. His 70th birthday party in February 2020 was attended not only by Benjamin (then a condition senator), but Letitia James, Consultant Adriano Espaillat, Condition Senator Robert Jackson, Assemblymembers Al Taylor and Robert Rodriguez, and Hazel N. Dukes, the president of the New York Point out chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. Migdol, his wife, and his son have collectively specified James’s campaign for lawyer standard $30,000 considering that 2019, funds that she told the Albany Situations Union right after Migdol’s arrest that she would return. “The Migdol relatives has offered a complete of $106,000 due to the fact 2006 in New York elections. The largest single donation arrived in November 2020, when Gerald Migdol donated $15,000 to the campaign arm of the condition Senate Democrats,” the Situations Union also described.

Romantic relationship with Benjamin
The two gentlemen were being near, the Situations reported, “and traded accolades at a series of charitable and political features around the a long time in Harlem.” There are numerous pictures of the two adult men jointly on the Migdol web site and Facebook website page, which includes one of Benjamin presenting Migdol with a $50,000 test manufactured out to his nonprofit Mates of Public Faculty Harlem. In 2019, Benjamin also nominated Migdol for a Neighborhood Management Award. That exact year, Migdol hosted an celebration honoring Dukes, one particular of Benjamin’s political mentors, which Benjamin attended. When Migdol was arrested in the tumble, a spokesman for Benjamin’s marketing campaign for comptroller advised the Times that Benjamin would fully cooperate with authorities and that “as soon as the campaign identified these contributions have been improperly sourced, they donated them to the campaign finance board.” As late as previous 7 days, when Benjamin was meeting with prosecutors, his prime aides had been reportedly telling allies that he anticipated to be cleared.