Former New York State Senator and Putnam County Executive-Elect Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison on Obstruction of Justice and Tax Charges

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that former New York State Senator VINCENT L. LEIBELL, III, 64, of Putnam County, New York, was sentenced today in White Plains federal court to 21 months in prison for obstructing a federal grand jury investigation into his extortion of cash payments from lawyers working in Putnam County and for failing to report on his income tax returns tens of thousands of dollars in cash payments he had received from those lawyers. He was sentenced by United States District Judge WARREN W. EGINTON.

U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA said, “Today’s sentencing of former Senator Vincent Leibell ends a sad chapter in the history of Putnam County. It should serve as a sobering reminder to all public officials throughout New York State that no one is above the law.”

According to the information filed in White Plains federal court and information revealed during the plea proceeding and the sentencing:

Since April 2010, a federal grand jury sitting in the Southern District of New York, the FBI, and the IRS had been investigating allegations that, as a New York state senator, LEIBELL had unlawfully extorted cash payments from attorneys doing business in Putnam County. The investigation focused on whether LEIBELL had demanded and received cash payments from an attorney, described in the information as Attorney #1, who provided legal services to a Putnam County-based not-for-profit organization (the “NFP”) that received millions of dollars in New York state senate member item grants that LEIBELL sponsored as a state senator. The investigation focused on whether LEIBELL had threatened to cause the NFP to refuse to pay the invoices Attorney #1 submitted to the NFP for legal services that he had rendered to the NFP unless he agreed to give half of the invoiced amount of money to LEIBELL in cash.

LEIBELL became aware of the investigation in late April 2010. He then began meeting with Attorney #1 to discuss what he should say when approached by federal agents.

On June 6, 2010, at LEIBELL’s request, Attorney #1 met with him in Carmel, New York, to discuss the pending federal investigation. During the June 6, 2010, meeting, LEIBELL repeatedly directed Attorney #1 to lie to federal investigators about the cash payments he had previously made to LEIBELL. LEIBELL instructed Attorney #1 to falsely say that he had never made cash payments to LEIBELL, and that when investigators questioned him about cash withdrawals Attorney #1 made from his bank account to pay LEIBELL, he should falsely say that he withdrew the money to have around in case of a national or family emergency and that he used the money for living expenses, including caring for his elderly mother.

During the meeting, LEIBELL repeatedly urged Attorney #1 to maintain their false denials, stating: “You and I say there was never any cash relationship. Period ... Since you and I are in agreement, it didn’t happen ... All I know is, as long as you and I are consistent, I’m fine, you’re fine. There was never any cash between you and I, okay?”

LEIBELL also was sentenced today on related tax crimes for filing false federal income tax returns with the IRS for the tax years 2003 through 2006. LEIBELL failed to report at least $43,000 in cash he received during these years from Attorney #1 and another attorney described in the information as Attorney #2.

LEIBELL, who resigned his New York state senate seat effective on December 3, 2010, was scheduled to be sworn in as Putnam County executive on January 1, 2011. Because of his guilty plea, he was never sworn in as Putnam County executive.

In addition to his prison term, Judge EGINTON ordered LEIBELL to pay a fine in the amount of $4,000 and serve three years of supervised release.

Mr. BHARARA praised the work of the FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. He added that the investigation is ongoing.

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys PERRY A. CARBONE and JASON P.W. HALPERIN are in charge of the prosecution.