Attorney Andrew Cuomo has sued State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx) for "looting" Soundview HealthCare Network, the Bronx non-profit, where Espada is the President and CEO. Cuomo's suit claims "Espada diverted Soundview’s charitable assets and used the money for himself, his family, his friends, and his political operation. In the past five years, Espada has siphoned more than $14 million out of Soundview, including an unconditionally guaranteed severance package worth an estimated $9 million which was put into a contract signed in 2005."
Espada's earnings at Soundview had raised interest last year, but there was talk that Cuomo had dropped the probe. Now Cuomo's office lists how working for the non-profit apparently paid off for Espada—more are after the jump, but here are a few:
- "Soundview paid approximately $80,000 in restaurant bills for 650 separate meals for Espada or his supporters. This includes more than 200 meals totaling more than $20,000 from two sushi restaurants that regularly received orders from Espada’s wife and delivered to the Espada home in Mamaroneck."
- "Soundview paid for trips for Espada, his wife and his family to such places as Las Vegas, Miami, and Puerto Rico as purported business trips."
- "Soundview has provided Espada with what is essentially an unlimited line of credit on a corporate American Express card. From 2006 through mid-2009, Espada charged more than $450,000 in items he later identified as personal."
- "Soundview gives Espada 14 weeks of annual leave on the first of each year, before it accrued, and allowed him to convert it to its cash equivalent to pay personal expenses. In this way, Soundview extended Espada more than $75,000 in credit, a violation of the New York State Not-For-Profit Law."
Cuomo said, "Taxpayer money was given to this not-for-profit to provide healthcare services to underprivileged patients, but our investigation has found the funds flowed into the pockets of Senator Espada and his supporters. Siphoning money from a charity would be egregious under any circumstances, but the fact that this was orchestrated by the State Senate Majority Leader makes it especially reprehensible. In New York, no one is above the law, and this suit should finally make that clear to Senator Espada."
Specific examples cited in the Attorney General's complaint, including improper funding of his political operations:
- "Soundview gave Espada a severance package that is currently worth an estimated $9 million. The provision unconditionally guarantees Espada the payment of one year’s gross pay for every year of service. If the clause were triggered, Soundview would be forced into bankruptcy."
- "Espada created a company that offered janitorial services, put his son, Pedro Gautier Espada, in charge of it, and then Gautier rigged the bids to make sure it won the Soundview contract - a contract worth almost $400,000 annually. In 2008, Pedro Gautier earned more than $150,000 from the for-profit company and from Soundview."
- "More than 150,000 pieces of Espada’s campaign literature at a cost of $100,000 were paid for by or funneled through Soundview."
- "Soundview routinely pays for political campaign expenses put on Espada’s American Express card- a practice that continues to this day. In fact, in the month prior to the 2008 primary for New York Senate, Espada amassed tens of thousands of dollars in credit card charges, most were campaign expenses."
- "Soundview provides Espada, who resides in Mamaroneck, with a housing allowance of approximately $2500 per month to pay for a Bronx co-op which Espada claimed as his legal residence for purposes of his 2008 Senatorial campaign. The total money spent on this second residence so far exceeds $50,000, and the allowance was provided so that Espada could establish a residence for his campaign at Soundview’s expense."
- "Soundview employees and resources were used in Espada’s campaign effort."