By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
In his heyday, former ambulance mogul Steve Zakheim liked to give politicians the royal treatment when they visited the Brooklyn headquarters of MetroCare, the big emergency transport company he founded.
Elected officials would be ushered into the company's conference room to give brief speeches to staffers. Zakheim would then hand over a stack of individual checks of $1,000 and $1,500 apiece, which he said represented support from his admiring employees. Last month, however, Zakheim, 49, quietly admitted in court that the routine was just for show. It was really his own money disguised to avoid donation limits, he acknowledged, and he had reimbursed his workers after asking them to write the checks.
Zakheim's guilty plea comes seven months after he was charged in Brooklyn federal court with funneling $32,500 in phony contributions to the senatorial campaigns of Rudy Giuliani and Chuck Schumer, as well as the congressional races of Noach Dear and Melinda Katz. The complaint stated that Zakheim routed $10,500 in disguised contributions to Giuliani, then a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Giuliani, the complaint noted, made a personal fundraising appearance at Zakheim's offices in March 1999. Several months later, the complaint noted, MetroCare was designated by the Giuliani administration as the first private ambulance firm allowed to respond directly to 911 calls.
Citing personal reasons, Zakheim stepped down in April from MetroCare, which is now owned by a national firm, TransCare. Zakheim's departure came two weeks after the Voice revealed that he had settled a lawsuit brought by 10 current and former female employees accusing him of sexual harassment ("The Boss Will See You Now," March 24-30). He faces up to six months in prison when he is sentenced in August on the election fraud charge.