Pedro Espada – a politician with a taste for the finer things – faced numerous allegations as a senator, but federal charges related to his theft of $600,000 from the Soundview Health Center, a federally funded health-care clinic in the Bronx, ultimately caused his downfall.
Following joint investigations by the state attorney general, FBI and IRS, Espada ultimately was convicted by federal jury on four counts of theft in May 2012. Jurors agreed that instead of using these federal funds to serve low-income Bronx residents at Soundview, Espada had used the money for his own benefit, including private family parties, vacations and more than $100,000 for take-out food and fancy meals, including $20,000 on sushi alone! Espada even tried to put a down payment on a Bentley with funds from the clinic (we’ll resist the urge to make a “riding dirty” joke here).
Espada played a powerful role in the senate before his defeat for reelection in 2010. Although a Democrat, he spearheaded the June 2009 coup, which temporarily gave control back to the Republicans after the Democrats had taken the house for the first time in four decades. In return, Espada became president pro tempore. He then switched allegiance back to the Democrats the next month and was named majority leader.
The state’s Legislative Ethics Commission fined Espada $80,000 — its largest fine ever — for hiring an uncle to work in his senate office, a violation of the Public Officers Law. And while he represented a Bronx district, reporters showed he violated residency law by living in Westchester County.
Espada pleaded guilty just last week and faces up to 10 years in federal prison. We hear the sushi selection behind bars is a bit lacking.