The chief of staff for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie spent tens of thousands of dollars on luxury goods with money that came from her husband's cocaine enterprise, according to federal prosecutors.
In a memo filed in federal court on Monday outlining their case against Orlando Dennis, prosecutors cite Dennis's "significant and unexplained wealth," and point to text messages in which he allegedly quotes the price of a kilo of cocaine ($35,000).
"The defendant works as a delivery driver, reports an annual income of approximately $25,000, and pays more than one-third of that salary directly towards child support," the memo states. "Yet the defendant deposited more than $600,000 in cash from 2015 to 2019."
Prosecutors claim that Dennis's wife, Jevonni Brooks-Dennis, deposited some of that cash; Brooks-Dennis is the chief of staff to Heastie, one of the most powerful elected officials in New York.
"The defendant’s wife is a government employee whose reported income does not explain the couple’s wealth," the filing states, accusing Brooks-Dennis of depositing thousands of dollars in cash at seemingly random intervals, in what the filing calls "a calculated — and illegal — effort to evade reporting requirements."
The memo also claims that Brooks-Dennis spent more than $12,000 at Christian Louboutin, and roughly $6,000 at Gucci, Burberry, and other luxury retailers from June 2018 through December 2019, and that she also spent more than $9,000 on hair extensions over the course of a year.
"The defendant frequently made expensive purchases from designer boutiques and photographs flaunt the defendant’s lavish lifestyle, prominently featuring flashy attire and an apparent affinity for designer merchandise," the filing states.
Orlando Dennis was arrested in January and charged with conspiring to import and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. The previous summer, Customs and Border Patrol agents found a suitcase filled with three kilos of cocaine at JFK coming from Jamaica that Dennis was allegedly supposed to receive. He denied that he knew the suitcase contained cocaine. Prosecutors claim that he traveled to Jamaica a few weeks before the bag arrived at JFK.
"We will deal with the allegations appropriately in Court," Jason Goldman, Dennis' attorney, wrote in an email.
Mike Whyland, a spokesperson for Speaker Heastie, whose district covers the Bronx, confirmed that Brooks-Dennis is still working as Heastie's chief of staff.
"Jevonni has never been accused of any wrongdoing nor has she ever been questioned," Whyland wrote in an email. "The Speaker has spoken to her about this and she has assured him that she has absolutely nothing to do with these accusations. Further, according to Ms. Brooks, the statements in news reports regarding deposits are patently false."
Brooks-Dennis, who is not named as a defendant in the federal case against her husband, earned around $75,000 from September 2019 through March of 2020.
A message left at a number listed for Brooks-Dennis has not been returned.
As the Times Union put it, it has been an "animated fall for the Assembly."
Joseph Brady, the longtime legislative director for Brooklyn Assemblymember Peter Abbate, was fired for essentially leading a double life as the leader of a biker gang. The FBI raided Brady's home in an Albany suburb, where it was discovered that the 40-year-old was living with an 18-year-old woman and her 16-year-old boyfriend. Brady was eventually charged with felony sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment, endangering the welfare of a child, and unlawfully dealing with a child.
John Kaehny, the executive director of the good government group Reinvent Albany, said that the state's Joint Committee on Public Ethics (JCOPE) could investigate Brooks-Dennis for potential ethics violations, but that it was unlikely given that a federal case is ongoing.
The Assembly also has a standing ethics committee; the chair, Brooklyn Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, did not respond to a request for comment.
You can read the full memo below.
This story was updated at 3 p.m. with a statement from Mike Whyland.