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New York State assemblyman found guilty in bribery case

New York State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (L) and his attorney leave the Manhattan Federal Court in New York April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan
New York State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (L) and his attorney leave the Manhattan Federal Court in New York April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York state assemblyman was found guilty on Monday on charges he accepted $22,000 in bribes in exchange for official acts, including securing legislation favoring a network of adult day-care centers operated by four businessmen.

A federal jury in Manhattan found New York State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson guilty of all four counts including conspiracy to engage in honest services fraud and bribery.

The case was the latest to involve allegations of wrongdoing by members of New York's legislature in Albany, where at least 30 politicians have faced legal or ethics problems since 2000.

"Graft and greed are intolerable in Albany, and we will go to trial as often as we have to until government in New York is cleaned up," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

A lawyer for Stevenson, a Democrat, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska scheduled sentencing for May 20.

Prosecutors said the bribery scheme stemmed from the efforts of four businessmen - Igor Belyansky, Rostislav Belyansky, Igor Tsimerman and David Binman - to operate and build adult day-care centers in New York City's Bronx borough.

According to the indictment, the men paid Stevenson to sponsor and get legislation enacted that would have effectively given the men a monopoly by declaring a three-year moratorium on constructing adult day-care centers in New York City, but exempting them from the restriction.

Stevenson helped in other ways, prosecutors said, facilitating the installation of a gas line to one of the centers and holding events to recruit senior citizens to attend a second one.

As part of the investigation, prosecutors secured the cooperation of another state legislator, Assemblyman Nelson Castro, a Bronx Democrat, who wore a wire as part of a deal to avoid perjury charges related to statements he made when he was a candidate in 2008.

Castro resigned from office in April 2013 when the Stevenson case became public.

He pleaded guilty in August to federal charges making false statements to law enforcement committing perjury and also admitted in state court to committing perjury. The four businessmen all pleaded guilty prior to trial.

Several cases against members of New York's legislative bodies are still pending.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat from Queens, was charged in April 2013 with attempting to buy a place on the Republican ticket in the New York City mayoral race.

New York State Senator John Sampson, meanwhile, is fighting charges of embezzlement, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal investigators after prosecutors accused him of stealing proceeds from sales of foreclosed properties to fund a failed run for district attorney.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York, additional reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany; Editing by Ken Wills)

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