Ex-city councilman Miguel Martinez has written a wrenching and apologetic letter to government probation officials saying that he cried himself to sleep the night after he pleaded guilty last July to pocketing some $106,000.
“How and why I threw away such a fulfilling job is as unbelievable to me as it is to my family, friends, and former constituents,” writes the former lawmaker from northern Manhattan.
He also says he turned himself in “when I realized I could not [sic] longer live with myself.” He writes that he would have “given anything to quietly pay back the money I had wrongly received and to continue serving my community as a councilman. But I did not run from reality. I went to the government, confessed what I had done, and agreed to plead guilty.”
It’s a good, strong missive, particularly from someone who is facing somewhere between 57 and 71 months in a federal pen when he faces U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty for sentencing next Tuesday.
Problem is, federal prosecutors say Martinez is still in denial.
Martinez only copped a plea after he knew the feds and investigators from the city’s Department of Investigation were already breathing down his neck, according to a memo filed this week by assistant U.S. attorneys Brent Wible and Glen Kopp.
They also say he is deflecting blame for one of his biggest rip-offs – funneling fake invoices to the council for reimbursement – onto an unnamed co-conspirator dubbed “CC-1.”
“Martinez’s letter to the Probation Office reads more like an attempt to minimize his criminal conduct than to acknowledge it fully,” write the prosecutors.
Martinez’s own description of the episode is decidedly passive. He says he “turned a blind eye” to the fact that his pal “probably was no longer providing the services for which he was sending invoices.” He adds that he “mindlessly continued to sign the invoices he submitted to my office.”
Meanwhile, some of the money for the bogus consulting work somehow made it into his own pocket: “Over time I understood that some of that money was routed back to me.”
Prosecutors say the former council member’s “self-serving characterization” of the scheme “is particularly galling.” They add: “That Martinez could have been unaware that he received tens of thousands of dollars via fraudulent invoices he personally approved, some of which had no connection to CC-1 at all, defies common sense.”
According to prosecutors, Martinez started filing fake invoices shortly after taking council office in 2002. They also say that after his friend moved out of state in 2005, Martinez started sending in more phoney bills to council officials. All told, 29 faked invoices worth $51,000 were approved for payment by Martinez over a six-year period.
Copies of the invoices, attached to the prosecution memo, show they were generally bare, one-line descriptions of the alleged work. A December, 2005 bill for $3,000 reads: “Media consulting and outreach housing and tenant organizing.”
The feds say Martinez also carefully sought to insulate himself from a separate scam in which he stole $40,000 in fees that a developer of affordable housing had paid to a not for profit group in Washington Heights where Martinez’s sister, ex-wife, and CC-1 were all involved. “Within days” after the developer paid fees to the group in 2005, Martinez had $20,000 deposited into the bank account of a shell corporation set up by his sister.
“Martinez’s caution demonstrates both that he carefully planned how to commit these crimes and that he was not merely led into criminal conduct by others,” wrote the prosecutors.
Martinez, 39, says in his letter that his days are spent doing volunteer work for the elderly, and caring for two young sons. “Some day, I will have to explain these very public mistakes” to them, he wrote. “I want to be able to tell them I accepted responsibility for my mistakes and learned from them, but refused to let my life be defined by them, and instead found other ways to give back to my community.”