ALBANY. N.Y. (WIVB) — Former State Sen. George Maziarz skimmed more than $100,000 from his campaign coffers to make sexual harassment claims within his own office disappear.
And the man who replaced him, current Sen. Robert Ortt, used the same tactics to pay for a supposed job for his wife, which she actually never worked.
Those are among the chief accusations by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, as part of a pair of felony indictments announced Wednesday in Albany.
The charges are part of an investigation by Schneiderman into alleged violations of state election law. Ortt is facing three counts of offering a false instrument for filing. Ortt released the following statement Wednesday:
“As someone who fought and sacrificed for our country, I am sickened that a career political and hyper partisan like Eric Schneiderman can concoct baseless charges to serve his own political agenda. One thing is clear: the only reason I am included on this is to make their case politically appealing. As multiple news organizations have documented, Eric Schneiderman has been obsessed with using his political office to persecute his political enemies and protect his political allies. We look forward to telling voters the truth about Eric Schneiderman and exposing him for the power hungry, political opportunist he is and I will fight this ridiculous charge.”
Sources close to the investigation say the FBI initiated this case in May of 2014.
The Moreland Commission was disbanded shortly before the FBI took the case on. Former U.S Attorney Preet Bharara subpoenaed all documents from the commission after it was disbanded.
When asked whether this latest indictment was a part of the Moreland Commission’s investigation, the FBI declined to comment.
The reason this case was not charged federally is because the alleged violations were of state election laws rather than federal election laws.
“He is being charged with a document that he never saw, he never had any discussions, he never was even involved with,” Ortt’s attorney Steve Coffey told reporters Thursday after his client pleaded not guilty in his arraignment. “So, I don’t know how he’s involved.”
Schneiderman says Maziarz funneled secret campaign payments to a former senate staffer. Court filings say money from The Committee to Elect Maziarz State Senate and the Niagara County Republican Committee that was paid to the staffer totaled $49,000 in 2012 and $46,000 from 2013 to 2014.
The staffer left government service amid sexual harassment charges.
Schneiderman says that while acting with others, Maziarz falsely reported expenditures on five filings with the state’s Board of Elections as pass-through entities.
Ortt is accused of participating in an illegal scheme while serving as Mayor of North Tonawanda. According to Schneiderman, a pass-through scheme was devised by Ortt so that his wife could be paid for a job where she did not perform any actual work.
The Attorney General says Ortt’s wife received roughly $21,500 from 2010 to 2014. The payments “were falsely reported as payments to one of the same pass-through entities that was used to pay for the former senate staff member for Maziarz,” Schneiderman’s office says.
According to Schneiderman, Ortt devised the plan to make up for a $5,000 reduction in annual salary he would be paid as North Tonawanda’s mayor.
“The attorney general of this state has signed off on this indictment, which means that, as a lawyer, he is telling the community that a crime has been committed,” Coffey said. “I can tell you, based on what I know, I have no idea where that crime is.”
“No-show jobs and secret payments are the lifeblood of public corruption,” Schneiderman said. “New Yorkers deserve full and honest disclosures by their elected officials — not the graft and shadowy payments uncovered by our investigation. These allegations represent a shameful breach of the public trust — and we will hold those responsible to account.”
Ortt is a Republican representing the 62nd Senate district. Maziarz formerly held the 62nd Senate seat until Ortt took office.
They will be back in court on May 8.