BROOKLYN (PIX11) – A judge sentenced former New York Senator Pedro Espada Jr. to five years in prison Friday after the disgraced politician pleaded guilty on tax fraud charges. Espada was also remanded after his sentencing.
After a previous conviction connected to improper use of taxpayer funds linked to several health clinics in the Bronx, both he and his son, Pedro Gautier, pleaded guilty to tax evasion. Gautier is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, as well.
The former State Senate Majority Leader was convicted in May of funneling taxpayer money through several South Bronx clinics and into his own pockets. He essentially used the Soundview Health Clinic as a “personal piggy bank,” according to the judge, using the money to pay for pricey meals, spa trips, luxury cars and vacations.
Espada had claimed his innocence from the beginning, saying, “What I created as a young man was not a ‘piggy bank’ but a lifeline that served thousands of people for thirty years.”
The bill from the corporate American Express card tied to the nonprofit told a different story, however. According to court papers filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd Kaminsky and Carolyn Pokorny:
“Espada spent over $100 on a lobster dinner delivered to his home in Mamaroneck that included an $18 charge to have the shell removed because apparently Espada did not want to endure that burden himself.”
Prosecutor Carolyn Pokorny told the jury Espada spent “sixty thousand dollars on sushi and lobster,” and “even went out and tried to buy a Bentley.”
In all, Espada was convicted of stealing more than $500,000 from the taxpayer subsidized clinics.
Along with the prison sentence, Espada must pay $368,088 in forfeiture, $368,087.43 in restitution and $118,531 in money owed to the IRS. The judge also tacked on 100 hours of community service.