Ex-Staffer to Ex-State Senator Gonzalez Goes to Prison; Gonzalez Next?

A former staffer to scandal-ridden state Senator Efrain Gonzalez, Jr. (pictured) was sentenced to ten months in prison in a Manhattan federal court late Friday for taking a salary from a community organization for which he never worked.

Miguel Castanos got his job with the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans, a Bronx organization, with a little help from his former boss. At the time, prosecutors charged, it was clear to all -- Castanos, Gonzalez, and the organization's executive director -- that this would be a no-show job.(We'd like to know what Castanos was doing instead).

Castanos is one of a number of people with ties to Gonzalez that have been sentenced in a corruption scandal in which the senator was himself was a key player. In May, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to charges that he had used hundreds of thousands of dollars from nonprofit groups to pay for personal expenses, including credit card bills, rent and Yankees tickets...

In June, Judge William Pauley sentenced Neil Berger, the former Executive Director of Pathways for Youth, to two years probation and home detention for his role in the scandal. In September, Lucia Sanchez, a former officer of the West Bronx Neighborhood Association, was sentenced for her role in helping Gonzalez steal $200,000 in public funds -- which he used, among other things, to pay for an apartment for his wife in the Dominican Republic. As part of his deal with the feds, Sanchez received a minor sentence of probation and home detention for federal program fraud.

Last fall, Gonzalez lost his Senate seat to Pedro Espada, Jr., another scion of a Bronx political family. Gonzalez, who represented the Bronx's 33rd District for two decades, will be sentenced in November. He faces up to nine years in prison.


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