Mayor De Blasio Reportedly Questioned By Feds on Satmar Ties

New York City’s mayor met for several hours Friday with federal authorities looking into allegations that donors to his mayoral campaign were promised favors.

Mayor Bill de Blasio met about four hours with authorities as part of his administration’s continued cooperation with the probe by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, City Hall Press Secretary Eric Phillips said in a statement.

The Democratic mayor, who faces re-election this year, did not speak to reporters when he left the law offices of his attorney Friday afternoon.

Those seen entering the building before the meeting included Andrew Goldstein, the head of Bharara’s public corruption unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Capone.

Two people with knowledge of the probe told The Associated Press that the mayor faced questions about whether people were promised favors in return for donations to his 2013 mayoral campaign.

Investigators are also trying to learn whether promises were made to donors to de Blasio’s since closed nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York.

The individuals spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

According to a report in The New York Times, in recent weeks the probe was focused on de Blasio’s relationship with Moishe Indig, a prominent rabbi in the Satmar Hasidic community in Williamsburg who hosted a fundraiser for the mayor in October 2013.

The investigation seeks to discern whether the city took action on behalf of Indig in return for his support for the mayor, The Times reported, citing unnamed sources. In 2012, Indig was featured in the Village Voice’s 10 Worst Landlords list in 2010.

“We remain confident that at all times the mayor and his staff acted appropriately and well within the law,” Phillips said.

“We hope our continued cooperation will help bring a swift conclusion to the U.S. attorney’s review.

In the interest of protecting the integrity of this process, we will refrain from any further comment at this time.”

The statement was in line with the mayor’s repeated statements that he had done nothing wrong.

A lawyer for the mayor did not immediately comment. A spokesman for Bharara declined comment.

After leaving the meeting, de Blasio headed to the airport for a trip to Atlanta.

In nearly eight years as U.S. attorney, Bharara has made public corruption a priority, winning convictions against numerous officials in both political parties, including the former New York assembly speaker, a Democrat, and the former New York Senate leader, a Republican. Both cases are on appeal.

2 replies
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Mayor Bill de Blasio met Friday with federal prosecutors investigating whether he gave special treatment to an influential Satmar Hasidic landlord in exchange for supporting his campaign, according to The New York Times.

    The landlord, Moishe Indig, is a top lay leader among the Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based followers of Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum, the Satmar rebbe of Kiryas Joel, New York. Indig is the public face of the Teitlebaum’s Brooklyn-based followers, the so-called Aronis, and has cultivated deep relationships with a range of local politicians.

    The Times reported that the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors were meeting with de Blasio as part of an investigation into de Blasio’s campaign fundraising. Indig hosted a fundraiser for de Blasio in October 2013, and his Satmar group endorsed the mayor.

    “We’re telling the kids to tell the parents that this is the candidate we endorse,” Indig told the Forward in September 2013. “Tell your mother, tell you father, to go out and vote for Bill de Blasio.”

    A political consultant close to the Aroni leadership, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said he had attended the October 2013 fundraiser. “It was no different than any fundraising dinner I have been at for U.S. Senator or Governor or member of Congress or City Councilman,” the consultant said.

    The consultant said that Indig’s efforts for the mayor were the same as any other interest group’s efforts. “Issues of importance to the community are shared with the administration,” the consultant said. “No differently than if it was [SEIU] 1199 or the Hotel Trades council or the Upper West Side. That they’re Hasidic makes it no different.”

    The Times reported that the investigation’s focus on Indig came about in recent weeks. FBI agents questioned Indig in December and took his cellphone, according to press reports.

    Also in December, agents arrested a close Indig ally, Isaac Sofer. Prosecutors charged Sofer with food stamp fraud and released him on bail. At the time, observers suggested that the charges could be connected to Sofer’s political work.

    According to court filings, Sofer’s attorneys and federal prosecutors were engaged in plea negotiations as of the end of January.

    De Blasio arrived for his interview with prosecutors at 9:18 Friday morning, according to the Daily News. He is scheduled to fly to Atlanta later in the day for a Democratic National Convention meeting, where the party is slated to choose a new chairman.

  2. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Federal prosecutors are looking into whether Mayor de Blasio intervened to get a vacate order lifted on a Hasidic school on behalf of an influential rabbi who raised money for him.

    Moishe Indig, a leader of the Satmar sect, supported de Blasio’s 2013 campaign and co-hosted a fundraiser for him, and his ties to the mayor have come under scrutiny by investigators who grilled de Blasio for four hours Friday.

    Stephen Witt, founder of the website Kings County Politics, which first reported the allegations, said he turned over notes to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in December documenting charges that the mayor ordered city officials to allow the school buildings to re-open after they were shut down for building code violations.

    Two buildings on Sanford Street in Williamsburg, which house the Bais Ruchel D’Satmar school, were hit with vacate orders in December 2014 for failure to maintain one building, illegal classrooms in the cellar with inadequate fire exits, and a missing certificate of occupancy at the other building, Department of Buildings records show.

    Days later, on Christmas Eve, borough Commissioner Ira Gluckman personally made the decision to lift the orders, the records state.

    De Blasio allegedly had called Indig’s cell phone while Indig was with Gluckman and ordered the commissioner to have the order lifted, Kings County Politics reported.

    The mayor’s office strongly denied that.

    “This isn’t any more true now than it was more than year ago when we called it out as a fabrication and the reporter admitted to us that he did not trust his source as credible. The mayor never intervened in this issue. Period,” said spokesman Eric Phillips.

    Witt acknowledged making that admission, but said he killed the story at the time because he feared retaliation and did not think he would be believed at a time before widespread investigations into possible pay-to-play by City Hall had emerged.

    De Blasio spokesman Melissa Grace said the order was issued because the building did not have two means of egress in case of fire, but lifted because the owner hired multiple fire guards.

    “We don’t want to force people to leave their home, business or school unless we absolutely have to — which is why it’s not uncommon for DOB to rescind a vacate order once an owner has satisfied our safety concerns,” she said.

    City officials say Gluckman responded personally because it was Christmas Eve and few DOB staffers were on duty.

    But records show he remained involved after that date, signing off on directives about the buildings in January and September 2015 and June 2016.

    Bharara’s office is investigating whether City Hall gave special treatment to donors who gave to de Blasio’s campaign or his now-defunct political non-profit, the Campaign for One New York.

    Besides Indig, they’re focusing on donors including Gina Argento, who runs Broadway Stages, and Harenda Singh, the former owner of the Water’s Edge restaurant on the Queens waterfront.

    Indig did not return a call for comment.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply