Alan Hevesi, the grandson of a chief rabbi of Budapest and a leader in the fight to recover assets of Holocaust survivors and gain restitution from Germany and Switzerland, pleaded guilty to a second-degree corruption charge in Manhattan on Thursday.
The plea likely completes a long fall from grace for Hevesi, whose political career goes back to 1971 when he was elected to the state Assembly, representing a district in Forest Hills, Queens. He was elected New York City Comptroller in 1993 and state comptroller in 2002 after losing the Democratic primary for mayor the previous year. He resigned from office in 2006 after winning a second term in a plea bargain with the Albany District Attorney in which he admitted using state employees and vehicles to chauffeur his ailing wife, Carol.
Since he left office Hevesi and his top political advisor, Hank Morris, had been under investigation by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for steering investments from the state’s $125 billion pension fund to political contributors, or to friends who gave them gifts in return. Hevesi pleaded guilty to one count of receiving a reward for official misconduct, a felony that could land him in jail for up to four years, although the judge is not required to incarcerate him under guidelines when he is sentenced in December. Hevesi acknowleged accepting $1 million in gifts from a friend and political backer, Elliot Broidy, a principal in Markstone Capital PartnersLP.
"I knowingly accepted and agreed to accept benefits from Broidy for having improperly favored Markstone for New York State Common Retirement Fund investments, in violation of my fiduciary and other duties as a state public official and the sole trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund," esi said at his plea hearing.
Hevesi, whose father, Eugene, was an official with the American Jewish Congress, was president of the Bnai Zion fraternal organization in the early part of the last decade and often attended meetings of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations. As comptroller he made investment in Israel a priority, including $100 million in biotech and other industries there, arguing that they not only helped the Jewish state but would bring solid returns for New York’s pension-holders.
In a 2006 interview with The Forward, Hevesi suggested that his high-profile role in the Holocaust restitution battle was one reason he needed a driver for his wife.
“I get threats regularly,” he said then. “It began when I led the fight for Holocaust restitution.”