Ex–Giuliani Aide Admits Theft

Late Monday afternoon, former Giuliani administration aide Luke Cusack stood in front of Judge Sidney Stein in Manhattan federal court to plead guilty to a broad scheme to embezzle funds with his former boss, Russell Harding.

Speaking in a barely audible voice in an almost empty courtroom, Cusack, 32, admitted that from the time he went to work as Harding's deputy at the city's Housing Development Corporation in 1998 right up until his dismissal in February 2002, he had spent funds "for personal use," including trips he took with Harding to Hong Kong, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C.

Cusack also admitted that he went along with a Harding scheme to hide expense records that were being sought under the Freedom of Information Law by The Village Voice at the time. Cusack acknowledged that after the records request was received, he put Harding's expenses on his own corporate credit card and took other unspecified steps to conceal expense data. He faces up to 10 years in prison on the charges.

Federal officials refused to comment on Cusack's status, but sources familiar with the case said that Cusack has been cooperating for months against Harding, who was charged March 17 with six counts of fraud and possession of child pornography. Cusack's cooperation could also be crucial in the ongoing city-federal probe into other ex-Giuliani administration aides who allegedly received free trips from Harding, the son of Liberal Party leader and Giuliani adviser Raymond Harding.

Russell Harding's attorney, Gerald Shargel, said Cusack's guilty plea "has no impact on [Harding's] case whatsoever."

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