Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Indicted State Senator Lived Lavish Lifestyle In Home of Turncoat Lucchese Boss

In Albany, State Senator Carl Kruger was a canny and influential lawmaker for 16 years, respected for his command of the political currency that matters most: raising and spreading around campaign contributions.

The Turano family home in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, where federal prosecutors said Senator Kruger lived much of the time. 

But there was something unusual about Mr. Kruger. He rarely socialized with fellow senators, seemed uncomfortable in crowds, frequently took his lunch alone in the drab Capitol cafeteria and, in an age of ubiquitous cellphones, could be spotted whispering into public pay phones.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors unveiled a 53-page criminal complaint against Mr. Kruger, 61, that unlocked many of the mysteries of his life — but deepened others. It portrayed a man who had amassed at least $1 million in bribes in return for political favors: helping hospitals seeking to merge, obtaining state money for real-estate developers, expanding the business hours of liquor stores.
And it revealed, prosecutors say, that the seemingly measured senator was using the bribes to bankroll a lavish lifestyle, financing a four-door Bentley Arnage and a $2 million waterfront home originally built for the former boss of the Luchese crime family.
Mr. Kruger and seven other defendants — including Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr., a fellow Brooklyn Democrat, and a prominent lobbyist, Richard Lipsky — were charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan with what United States Attorney Preet Bharara called “a broad-based bribery racket.”
Mr. Bharara expressed exasperation over the unrelenting corruption in Albany, saying lawmakers did not appear to learn.
“Every single time we arrest a state senator or assemblyman, it should be a jarring wake-up call,” Mr. Bharara said. “Instead, it seems that no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button.”
Mr. Kruger, wearing a dark suit and overcoat, entered the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in Lower Manhattan about 8:30 a.m. along with his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman. He said nothing to reporters.
A judge released the defendants, none of whom entered a plea.
“He’s saddened,” Mr. Brafman said, “because he’s been one of the most dedicated public servants for the last 25 years with an impeccable reputation. This is obviously a difficult day for all of us.”
The Senate Democratic leader, John L. Sampson, removed Senator Kruger on Thursday from his position as ranking member of the Finance Committee, effective immediately. Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, said in a statement, “These are serious charges, and it is inappropriate to comment further on an ongoing legal matter.”
In the investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation used a bug and taps on the cellphones of Senator Kruger and Mr. Lipsky, among others.
The complaint accuses Senator Kruger, a former chairman of the Finance Committee, of accepting bribes to obtain state money for Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, Queens, and oppose a big box store in Brooklyn, and doling out $500,000 in state funds to one of Mr. Lipsky’s clients.
Another of the accused was David P. Rosen, whose company, MediSys Health Network, gave Assemblyman Boyland a no-show job, according to the complaint. The lawmaker helped the company get a meeting with a New York State Health Department official, the complaint said.
But it was the tangled tale of Mr. Kruger — the stocky son of a cabdriver whose accent still bears the inflection of his native Brooklyn neighborhood, Brownsville — that most captivated Albany, now jaded by run-of-the-mill pay-to-play stories.
Under the scheme, according to the complaint, Mr. Kruger sometimes accepted payments from Mr. Lipsky, the lobbyist, to do work on behalf of his clients. Other times, prosecutors said, he accepted bribes from hospitals that were funneled through a friend and partner, Solomon Kalish.
In 2009, according to the complaint, Mr. Kruger received money from Mr. Lipsky and worked against a bill expanding the reach of state recycling laws, which was opposed by beverage distributors for whom Mr. Lipsky lobbied.
When his effort failed and the bill passed, Mr. Kruger introduced a bill to delay the date the new law would go into effect.
The complaint said Mr. Kruger last year tried to help a developer and client of Mr. Lipsky’s — not named but easily recognizable as Forest City Ratner — to obtain money for three projects: $9 million for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, $2 million for a retail development in Mill Basin and $4 million for the renovation of the skating rink in Prospect Park.
Beyond the accusations of official misconduct, the complaint also described the personal drama around how the money was allegedly used by Mr. Kruger and the Turano family of Mill Basin.
Despite listing his official residence as his sister’s home on Avenue L in Mill Basin, Mr. Kruger had all but moved in with the Turanos in their 7,000-square-foot home, which towers over others in the neighborhood and features ostentatious sculptures of frolicking children and soaring seagulls.
At the Turanos’, he helped manage the household and shop for groceries, and even help pick out a gravestone for the family plot. He also oversaw the installation of security cameras and sprinklers at the Mill Basin home.
No one was especially sure of what to make of the senator’s place in the house, which was occupied by two brothers, Michael S. Turano, 49, and Gerard I. Turano, 47, and their mother, Dorothy Turano, 73.
Mrs. Turano, who is divorced, often appeared with Mr. Kruger at public events, and some neighbors described the two as a couple. But, it was the oldest son, Michael, to whom Mr. Kruger was closest, and they forged a relationship in which they “supported and relied on one another,” according to the complaint.
And it was Michael Turano, the complaint said, who established shell companies to conceal the bribes, and later used the money to finance the Bentley, pay credit card bills and make mortgage payments on the house. One of the accounts bore the name “Bassett,” the name of the street on which they lived.
Michael Turano was charged in the criminal conspiracy, along with Mr. Kruger, Mr. Lipsky, Mr. Boyland and Mr. Rosen. The hospital executive Robert Aquino, the hospital consultant Solomon Kalish and the real-estate developer Aaron Malinsky were also charged. All the defendants surrendered on Thursday morning.
The events on Thursday capped a year of personal and political pressure for Mr. Kruger. News that he had been under federal investigation surfaced last June, and last month, an associate of his agreed to plead guilty in another federal inquiry.
Recently, when staying at the Turanos, Mr. Kruger had made it a point to park his car around the corner from the house, in what neighbors viewed as a curious change of habit.
He has also faced unusually intense criticism from gay rights activists for his 2009 vote against a Senate bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Activists traveled last year to the Turano residence and the Brooklyn home of Mr. Kruger’s sister, protesting loudly and saying Mr. Kruger himself was gay. Mr. Kruger has said he is not gay.
Two activists also crashed an evening fund-raiser Mr. Kruger held last March at an Albany hotel, presenting themselves as guests of one of the co-hosts, Mr. Sampson. As a dozen or so lobbyists and donors — ticket prices topped out at $9,500, the maximum legal donation to a senator’s campaign — snacked on chicken and pasta, the activists berated Mr. Kruger.
Neighbors interviewed on Thursday said they were offended by the visits from the gay rights protesters, with their placards and chants.
But the area is accustomed to a bit of theater: Anthony Casso, the Lucchese crime family boss who poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the house Mr. Kruger and the Turanos share, never moved in. And, apparently worried that the architect who designed it knew about illegal activities, he ordered him killed.



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