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Ex-New York state comptroller pleads guilty in pension scheme

By Jesse Solomon, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alan Hevesi pleads guilty to one count of felony corruption
  • He could be sentenced to as much as four years in prison
  • Sentencing will be in December

New York (CNN) -- Former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony corruption charge for his key role in a wide-ranging state pension fund scandal.

As part of a plea agreement, Hevesi, who served as comptroller from 2003 to 2006, pleaded guilty to "receiving reward for official misconduct," a felony that carries a prison sentence of up to four years.

According to a statement from the New York attorney general's office, Hevesi admitted receiving nearly $1 million in benefits for his family, friends and political allies in exchange for improperly approving a $250 million investment in Markstone Capital Partners from the New York state's Common Retirement Fund.

These benefits consisted of $75,000 in travel expenses for Hevesi and his family, $380,000 in sham consulting fees for a lobbyist friend, and over $500,000 in campaign contributions, the statement said.

Elliott Broidy, a Hevesi fundraiser and principal of Markstone Capital, "concealed his payment of some of the travel expenses through the use of charitable organizations and false invoices submitted to the comptroller's office," according to the attorney general's office.

The attorney general's office said Broidy pleaded guilty in December 2009 to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct in connection with his dealings in the case.

Hevesi turned himself in Thursday morning at state Supreme Court in Manhattan and was arraigned in front of Judge Lewis Bart Stone. Hevesi read a statement in which he admitted guilt and expressed remorse for his actions.

"I deeply regret my conduct and sincerely apologize to the people of the state of New York," he told the court.

The case stems from an extensive investigation by Andrew Cuomo, the state's attorney general and now the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, into abuses of the state pension fund by state officials. According to Cuomo's office, he started issuing subpoenas to investment firms in connection with the fund in May 2009 after learning that 40 to 50 percent of agents acting to secure investments with state and New York City funds were unlicensed.

"(Hevesi) was solely charged with protecting our pension fund, but he exploited it for his personal benefit instead," Cuomo said. "With his guilty plea, we can now focus on the process of restoring public trust in government."

As the highest ranking government official involved in the pension scheme, Hevesi's guilty plea is seen by many in New York as evidence that corruption has invaded state government in Albany in recent years.

It's the second time Hevesi has pleaded guilty to a felony corruption charge. After he was re-elected as comptroller in 2006, he entered a guilty plea and resigned before the new term began to avoid indictment on more serious charges.

Hevesi, who was forced to surrender his passport, is working with a parole officer until his sentencing on December 16.

CNN's Raelyn Johnson contributed to this report.