Efrain Gonzalez, the sad sack ex-state senator from the Bronx, has somehow managed to dig himself into a hole deeper than those mysterious house-swallowing chasms up in Canada.
Gonzalez was already in a legal pit up to his ample chin, facing between 7 to 9 years in prison after copping to his outrageous half-million-dollar ripoff of a pair of ostensibly do-good non-profit organizations in the Bronx that he controlled. Now, thanks to the former pol’s tortured effort to withdraw his guilty plea, he is likely to sink out of sight: He’s looking at 11 to 14 years in the federal clink. A 62-year-old man suffering from obesity and other health issues does not do that kind of stretch standing on his head.
In a detailed memo to federal Judge William Pauley, Manhattan federal prosecutor Preet Bharara’s team asks the judge to throw the book and a few extra chapters at the ex-senate rogue. For one thing, the feds say, once Gonzalez moved to withdraw his plea, he disqualified himself from receiving one of those much-sought-after “downward departures” from the sentencing guidelines since he was no longer accepting responsibility for his actions.
The hole got deeper yet because, in the process of claiming that he’d been duped into his guilty plea by his longtime lawyer — Murray Richman of the Bronx, Gonzalez told a slew of lies, say the feds. “He lied repeatedly about objective facts,” say assistant U.S. attorneys Michael A. Levy and Pablo Quiñones in a memo filed Wednesday in court. “Accordingly, the Court should impose an obstruction of justice enhancement.”
Judge Pauley would appear to be in agreement with this claim, since he dubbed Gonzalez’s post-guilty plea story “preposterous” last month.
Gonzalez’s spree went for a long list of vacation clubs, steak dinners, premium Yankees tickets, cash advances, plane tickets to the Dominican Republic, an upstate hideaway, and even seed money for a cigar business.
“To call this conduct merely despicable would be to ignore
the position of the person who engaged in it,” the feds wrote in their memo, “Gonzalez’s offenses would be bad enough if perpetrated by a simple con-man. But Gonzalez was not just a simple con-man. He was a leader in his community and the state, serving as a senator for nearly two decades.”
Sentencing is now set for May 25. Thankfully, Gonzalez was soundly defeated for reelection in the fall of 2008 as his indictment was pending. His successor? Current state and federal investigation target, one Pedro Espada Jr.