Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Thursday, 14 May 2009 17:10
Nassau County Legislator Roger Corbin (2nd L.D., Westbury) appeared in Central Islip’s United States Court on May 6 and pleaded not guilty to charges that he allegedly filed false federal tax returns and, when questioned, lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) special agents.
An unsealed federal complaint by the United States Attorney’s Office – Eastern District alleges that Corbin, 62, received 81 checks totaling approximately $226,000, from a developer between Feb. 22, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2007. According to the federal complaint, each check was made payable to “cash” and deposited into one of Corbin’s four personal bank accounts. In interviews with IRS and FBI special agents, officials state that Corbin acknowledged receiving the checks from a developer who had been awarded construction contracts as part of a federally-funded revitalization project in New Cassel.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also states that an analysis of Corbin’s bank records revealed approximately $226,000 in deposits from said checks and further review of Corbin’s federal tax returns for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 revealed he did not report any of the money derived from the checks as income and therefore did not pay income tax on the money.
The intensity of the charges against Corbin is heightened based on claims by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that he lied to special agents from the FBI and IRS during an interview in November 2008.
At this time, officials state that Corbin told them he did not use any of the money for his own personal benefit and he instead had given the funds to an individual who was purportedly paying workers at the developer’s New Cassel construction sites. A subsequent investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, however, determined that the individual Corbin claimed to have given all the money to had passed away in November 2005 while a review of bank records revealed that Corbin received and deposited 73 of the checks, totaling approximately $206,500, after that individual’s death.
Additionally, special agents state that, during an April 2009 interview, Corbin admitted that he used significant portions of the $226,000 for his own personal benefit, including tuition bills and gambling, and that he did not report that income on his federal tax returns for years 2005, 2006 and 2007, therefore owing some $70,000 in back taxes.
“The defendant violated the law by failing to file truthful federal tax returns – an obligation of all taxpayers, including elected public officials. He then compounded his crime by lying to federal agents to cover his tracks,” stated Eastern District U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell in a press release. “The defendant will now be held to account.”
IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Patricia Haynes added, “It is ironic that as an elected official, Mr. Corbin is instrumental in choosing how taxpayers’ hard earned dollars should be spent, yet this complaint alleges that Mr. Corbin chose not to contribute his fair share of taxes.”
Officials state that there are no allegations that Corbin either took bribes or misused his office. Additionally, the developer, Ranjan Batheja of Rosedale-based Stoneridge Homes, is not named in the federal complaint.
Following news of Corbin’s arrest, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi told Anton Community Newspapers, “These are serious allegations that must go through the legal process. I have contacted the Corbin family and will pray for them during this difficult time.”
Nassau County Deputy Presiding Officer Diane Yatauro (D-Glen Cove) echoed the sentiment, saying, “This is a sad time for a colleague and friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Corbin family.”
Corbin made headlines back in late 2005 into early 2006 when he unsuccessfully attempted to oust former presiding officer Judy Jacobs and appoint himself to the helm of the legislature with support from Minority Leader Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa). A representative from Schmitt’s office said the Republican legislator was not commenting on the charges against Corbin.
“The people rightly expect their elected representatives at all levels of government to behave honorably, or at a minimum, lawfully,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Joseph Demarest. “This defendant put self-interest above public service. Public confidence in government depends on accountability for misconduct.”
At a May 13 press conference outside the county’s Supreme Court building in Mineola, Corbin was stoic as he addressed the media. “This matter should have been resolved civilly a long time ago and as a personal, private matter,” he told reporters. “I take full responsibility for any mistakes that I may have made, but after more than 40 years of dedicated public service, the avalanche of negative publicity that has been generated against me is unwarranted and unfair.”
Corbin continued, “The FBI and IRS are trying this case in the media because I am a public figure. The matter could have been easily resolved long ago by the filing of amended tax returns and the payment of any taxes that may be due. My accountant is reviewing that now and, if appropriate, that will be done.”
His attorney Thomas Liotti, a Garden City criminal defense attorney and Westbury Village Justice, is standing by his belief that government – the FBI and IRS – shouldn’t be trying Corbin’s case in the media. “…The government has pursued Roger Corbin because he is a public figure representing a minority district … said Liotti. “They have issued press releases and leaks to the press about a private, personal matter. Clearly, this is being done to embarrass and prejudice a fair review of the facts and circumstances of this case.”
Corbin, who plead not guilty last week before United States Magistrate Arlene R. Lindsay and was released on his own recognizance, is scheduled to attend a hearing May 26. In the meantime, the Democratic legislator who has served the 2nd District (which includes all of Westbury, New Cassel and parts of East Garden City, East Meadow, Hicksville, Hempstead, Lakeview, Old Westbury, Uniondale and West Hempstead) since the county legislature’s inception in 1995, remains in office and in his position as chairman of the legislative finance committee.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Carrie N. Capwell, Steven D’Alessandro and Richard P. Donoghue. If convicted, Corbin faces up to five years in prison on the false statement charge and up to three years in prison for each of the false tax returns filed. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000 on each count of conviction. A felony conviction would mean Corbin loses his seat on the legislature.