The Many Scams of Angel-Eyes Martinez

And he seemed like such a sweet lad.

Miguel Martinez, 39, sat in the front row of the City Council these last few years saying little and bearing the look of the angelic. Alas, it wasn't so.

As he admitted today, what was really running through Martinez's mind was not the pressing problems of his Washington Heights constituents but a multi-pronged embezzlement scheme.

If we could have read his thought ballon, as acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin revealed today, we would have seen the handsome young councilman dreaming of this:

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--$51,000 that he pulled in from a bait-and-switch scheme in which he raked off in council expense money over the past six years by submitting bogus invoices to the council for things like "media outreach" and "staff development."

--$15,000 from an arts center in Washington Heights for which he obtained council funding to provide art classes and after-school programs. Martinez went easy here, apparently. He obtained $163,000 in city funding for the Washington Heights Arts Center, but took less than ten percent. All heart.

--$40,000 from an unnamed developer of affordable housing who used Martinez's favorite local nonprofit - Upper Manhattan Council Assisting Neighbors a/k/a UCAN - as a local sponsor for low-income housing in order to qualify for federal tax credits. Starting in August, 2004, Martinez directed that the developer relay some $96,000 payments to UCAN, of which Martinez skimmed a mere $40,000.

City investigations commissioner Rose Gill Hearn, whose agency worked with federal investigators on the probe, said that Martinez not only betrayed his trust but misjudged the city's watchdogs.

"These kinds of crimes amount to a bet - that no one is watching taxpayer funds," said Hearn. "Any individual who takes that foolish bet will end up losing."

Martinez faced 20 years on each of three separate counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, and money laundering. The U.S. attorney is recommending a sentence of 57 to 71 months. Such a waste.


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