Harlem landlord charged in campaign finance scheme
Prosecutors: Gerald Migdol used straw-man contributions to trigger matching funds
A Manhattan real estate developer has been charged with attempting to fatten the wallet of a candidate in this year’s New York City comptroller’s race by making campaign contributions in names of people who hadn’t authorized the payments — including his 2-year-old grandson.
The New York Times reports that Gerald Migdol, 71, was arrested and arraigned on Friday on federal charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, and is facing up to 20 years in jail. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to the indictment, between 2019 and 2021, the contributions in question helped set up the candidate’s campaign to illegally receive tens of thousands of dollars in matching funds from the city’s campaign finance system, which provides dollars to candidates based on small grass-roots donations.
The candidate was not named in the indictment, but the Times suggests it is Lieutenant Governor Brian A. Benjamin, the former state senator from Harlem who once nominated Migdol for a community leadership award in that neighborhood, where Migdol owned properties and does charity work.
A spokesman for Benjamin’s comptroller campaign told the Times that Benjamin and the campaign were not accused of any wrongdoing and were willing to cooperate with authorities on the matter.
Benjamin, who came in fourth in the campaign for comptroller, which Councilman Brad Lander won, was named lieutenant governor by Gov. Kathy Hochul in August after she succeeded Andrew Cuomo.
One of the donations in question was a $250 contribution made in the name of Migdol’s 2-year-old grandson, a fact first reported by the website The City in January in a story that focused on three other $250 donations by men who said they had never heard of Benjamin.
In 2006, Migdol told the New York Post that he began buying up brownstones in Harlem when their values were much lower than they are today. The Migdol Organization’s website also highlights the company’s charitable work through the Migdol Family Foundation, which it says provides food to the needy and resources to Harlem’s public schools.