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New York lieutenant governor resigns after arrest on bribery and fraud charges

New York State Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin leaves a courthouse in New York, US, April 12, 2022. (Reuters photo)

New York Lieutenant Gov. Brian Benjamin has resigned after he was arrested over charges of bribery and fraud, according to the state’s Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul.

Benjamin, 45, was handpicked by Hochul last August as a partner to make a new start in an office hit by scandal after Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned amid accusations of bullying and sexual harassment.

He was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with one count of federal program bribery, one count of honest services wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit those offenses and two counts of falsification of records.

Benjamin was released and bail was set at $250,000. Hours later, he submitted his resignation to Hochul.

Hochul said in a statement, “I have accepted Brian Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately. While the legal process plays out, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as lieutenant governor. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them.”

The charges against Benjamin, a Democrat, came after authorities discovered that he participated in a scheme in 2019 to obtain campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for the then state senator to use his influence to get a $50,000 state-funded grant for a non-profit organization the developer controlled.

Benjamin also faced accusations of falsifying records related to the campaign contributions in question by making it appear that they came from other individuals. In addition, he allegedly made false statements in the questionnaire he filled out during the process to become New York lieutenant general.

US Attorney Damian Williams issued a statement, saying, “Taxpayer money for campaign contributions. Quid pro quo. This for that. That's corruption.”

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams lays out charges against Benjamin during a news conference in New York, US, April 12, 2022. (Reuters photo) 

“As alleged, Brian Benjamin used his power as a New York state senator to secure a state-funded grant in exchange for contributions to his own political campaigns,” read the statement. “By doing so, Benjamin abused his power and effectively used state funds to support his political campaigns.”

Williams went on to say that "public corruption remains a problem in New York. It is a bipartisan problem. It is an ongoing problem."

The development created a political crisis for Hochul and could complicate her reelection bid in November.

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