A major donor to Mayor de Blasio has secretly pleaded guilty to making campaign donations to public officials in exchange for official action.
This stunning admission was made by Jona Rechnitz, a Brooklyn real estate investor who months ago began cooperating with prosecutors in former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s pay-to-pay probe of de Blasio.
The assertion surfaced in court papers detailing for the first time Rechnitz’s admissions of criminal activity.
Rechnitz’s criminal “information” was quietly unsealed by the courts March 15, the same day the U.S. Attorney’s office announced it had decided not to bring criminal charges against de Blasio or his top aides.
Prosecutors requested the unsealing order two days before.
Rechnitz’s information makes no mention of de Blasio, but Rechnitz was a major donor to the mayor through multiple avenues.
In October 2013, shortly after the mayor won the primary, Rechnitz collected $41,650 for the mayor’s campaign.
In January 2014, he followed up with $50,000 to the mayor’s nonprofit, Campaign for One New York, and in October 2014 he wrote a $102,000 check to the state Democratic Senate campaign committee as part of de Blasio’s failed 2014 bid to switch the Senate to Democrat control.
The U.S. Attorney’s statement on the de Blasio probe made clear that the mayor “and others acting on his behalf solicited donations from individuals who sought official favors from the City.”
The strongly worded statement by Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim stated that de Blasio then “made or directed inquiries to relevant City agencies on behalf of those donors.”
The documents reveal that Rechnitz admitted that he and others “known and unknown provided financial and personal benefits and political contributions to public officials including law enforcement officials in exchange for official action as requested by Rechnitz and others.”
The information, filed in June and signed by Bharara himself, did not spell out Rechnitz’s requests but stated that “as opportunities arose” Rechnitz “and others known and unknown transmitted and caused to be transmitted interstate emails, telephone calls and electronic wire transfers of funds.”
Back on June 6, Rechnitz pleaded guilty in a sealed courtroom and was then released on $500,000 bail.
He then began helping prosecutors and the FBI try and make a case that de Blasio used his official powers to raise funds for his campaign and a nonprofit he created, the Campaign for One New York, that could accept checks of unlimited amounts.
Rechnitz specifically admitted that he conspired to “deprive the public of its intangible right to honest services of law enforcement and other public officials.”