Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin resigns in real estate donor scandal
New York’s second-in-command faces fraud, bribery charges
Hours after federal prosecutors unveiled charges of fraud, bribery and falsification of records against New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, the state’s No. 2 politician has resigned.
Benjamin surrendered to authorities Tuesday morning and Gov. Kathy Hochul announced shortly after 5 p.m. that she had accepted his resignation.
Federal prosecutors allege that Benjamin steered state money toward a Harlem real estate investor in return for donations — some of them illegal — to his past campaigns for state senate and New York City comptroller.
Benjamin, a former Manhattan senator and developer of market-rate and affordable housing, pleaded not guilty to five total charges. Nonetheless, he stepped down from office with just a couple months until New York Democrats will choose their nominee for governor.
Benjamin’s scandal made his resignation inevitable, and he probably would not have lasted until 5 p.m. had not a subway shooting consumed Hochul’s attention earlier in the day.
“While the legal process plays out, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as lieutenant governor,” Hochul said in a statement. “New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them.”
In November, prosecutors charged Harlem developer Gerald Migdol with wire fraud in connection to fundraising activity for Benjamin.
Prosecutors accused Migdol of making unauthorized donations to Benjamin’s 2021 comptroller campaign under other names, including those of his associates and 2-year-old grandchild. The donations helped Benjamin pull in tens of thousands of dollars in public matching funds.
Benjamin’s Senate campaign fund received $25,000 from Migdol, but not in the developer’s name. Two $10,000 checks came from the developer’s relatives and one $5,000 check from an LLC he controlled, according to the indictment.
Benjamin previously represented Harlem and some surrounding neighborhoods in the state Senate. Hochul appointed him lieutenant governor after former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned in August.