September 22, 2023

Enterprise JM

Do the Business

The Harlem investor in the Benjamin campaign finance scheme

Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock

Lieutenant Governor Brian A. Benjamin resigned this afternoon, just hrs right after he was arrested and charged in Manhattan federal court with bribery, fraud, and falsification of documents in relationship with his unsuccessful 2021 operate for New York City comptroller. The indictment accuses Benjamin of conspiring “to immediate a state-funded grant to an firm managed by a authentic estate developer in trade for marketing campaign contributions.” Benjamin also, according to the indictment, “engaged in a collection of lies and deceptions” to include items up, like lying on his track record examine. The Harlem true-estate investor, Gerald Migdol, who was arrested for his part in the plan this previous November and was discovered in the indictment only as “CC-1,” short for “co-conspirator 1,” has apparently been cooperating. Migdol, who went on a brownstone shopping for spree in the 1990s and early 2000s, appears to be to have targeted his extra recent attempts on producing political connections. But who is he? And what particularly is he accused of undertaking?

The plan
In January 2021, the Metropolis described on a amount of irregularities in contributions to Benjamin’s campaign for comptroller, amongst them a quantity of $250 wire-transfer contributions from people who, when contacted, said they had no notion who Benjamin even was. One particular transfer was manufactured in the identify of Migdol’s 2-12 months-outdated grandson. All arrived as a result of an middleman, Michael Murphy, who operates at 1 of Migdol’s nonprofits, Friends of General public University Harlem. Prosecutors later alleged that Migdol both paid for or refunded contributions from quite a few other individuals. The illegal contributions also would have — less than New York City’s generous marketing campaign-funding system, in which the initial $100 of each donation is likely suitable for $800 in matching general public bucks — been a way to steal taxpayer money. “Campaign finance-board data present Benjamin’s marketing campaign identified 21 of the contributions Murphy steered to Benjamin as match-suitable — introducing up to $16,800 in feasible public pounds,” according to the Town.

Migdol’s real-estate career
A New York native and son of a plumber who went to a Queens College or university and Benjamin Cardozo Law College, Migdol commenced building serious-estate investments after graduating from regulation faculty in 1979, buying and rehabbing properties on the Reduced East Facet with his father, according to a 2006 profile in Real Estate Weekly. “Essentially, we seemed for the worst properties on the best blocks in areas that we felt would transform,” Migdol mentioned. He shut down his company in 1990 when the sector crashed and went to perform for GFI Realty, and in the mid-’90s commenced getting houses again — this time, Harlem brownstones, which were being easily out there for comparatively little dollars. He started out the Migdol Firm in 2002. At first, he turned the homes into multi-device rentals, but he started off doing condominium conversions all-around 2006, a change he told the New York Article was spurred by the mounting value of brownstones. “When I started out purchasing in 2001 they ended up $200,000 and $300,000, and now it is $1 million for a shell,” he explained. “If you want to make revenue, the magic formula is to buy low and provide higher.” (That is not precisely a top secret, but it’s accurate even so.)

Migdol does not appear to have registered as a drive with the city’s more strong genuine-estate gamers, and the Migdol Organization’s internet site has no facts about its holdings or investments. It describes Migdol as “a Harlem based mostly enterprise that supplies specialized providers in housing, improvement, social get the job done and regulation. By way of its subsidiaries, the Migdol Organization develops, manages, brokers and owns different forms of serious estate in the course of New York Town.” It does, on the other hand, have a estimate, allegedly from Hillary Clinton (it’s possible Migdol was a massive Democratic donor): “I’m so impressed with the Migdols’ small business design of a truly diverse organization that brings together gain and non-earnings firms in one particular group.” In a movie on the site, Migdol, sitting upcoming to his spouse, Sheri Perl, describes the corporation as while it were a social-services business “that offers housing, safety, legal expert services for the neighborhood and for the homeless inhabitants.” Effectively the entirety of the web-site is focused to the organization’s nonprofit perform, with no indications of the place or how it makes its income.

Chummy with politicians 
As a result of contributions as nicely as numerous nonprofits that donate supplies to Harlem public colleges and give out turkeys at Thanksgiving, Migdol has cultivated his political interactions. His 70th birthday bash in February 2020 was attended not only by Benjamin (then a condition senator), but Letitia James, Consultant Adriano Espaillat, State Senator Robert Jackson, Assemblymembers Al Taylor and Robert Rodriguez, and Hazel N. Dukes, the president of the New York State chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. Migdol, his wife, and his son have collectively offered James’s campaign for legal professional general $30,000 considering the fact that 2019, income that she explained to the Albany Periods Union immediately after Migdol’s arrest that she would return. “The Migdol spouse and children has offered a complete of $106,000 since 2006 in New York elections. The biggest one donation arrived in November 2020, when Gerald Migdol donated $15,000 to the marketing campaign arm of the condition Senate Democrats,” the Instances Union also documented.

Marriage with Benjamin
The two adult men have been near, the Periods claimed, “and traded accolades at a collection of charitable and political features more than the years in Harlem.” There are numerous images of the two adult men together on the Migdol web page and Facebook webpage, like 1 of Benjamin presenting Migdol with a $50,000 verify made out to his nonprofit Pals of Community Faculty Harlem. In 2019, Benjamin also nominated Migdol for a Local community Management Award. That very same 12 months, Migdol hosted an occasion honoring Dukes, 1 of Benjamin’s political mentors, which Benjamin attended. When Migdol was arrested in the fall, a spokesman for Benjamin’s campaign for comptroller explained to the Periods that Benjamin would entirely cooperate with authorities and that “as shortly as the campaign uncovered these contributions were being improperly sourced, they donated them to the marketing campaign finance board.” As late as last 7 days, when Benjamin was meeting with prosecutors, his best aides have been reportedly telling allies that he envisioned to be cleared.