Just in time for the state budget showdown, the FBI is again poking around in the affairs of state senators. The latest probes are encouragingly bi-partisan, which is the best way to do corruption probing. There is one for a Democrat — state senator Carl Kruger of Brooklyn, whose dealings with a mischievous Brighton Beach nightclub owner are under investigation. And there is another for Republican Vincent Leibell of Putnam County, who managed to parlay a $110,000 property into a $1.4 million colonial mansion. (It helped that Leibell was able to sell a chunk of his property to the state, which conveniently wanted it for a new state park.)
The Kruger investigation surfaced when the feds popped a lawyer named Michael Levitis last week for allegedly lying to agents. Levitis heads a Brooklyn law-firm that specializes in personal injury lawsuits and “debt settlement.” He does double-duty as Vice-President of Entertainment and Marketing for Rasputin’s, the fabulous nightclub on Coney Island Avenue (don’t miss the gangster fan-dance number) owned by his family.
Levitis threw a fundraiser for Kruger at Rasputin in 2008, but the lawyer’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, says that had nothing to do with efforts the senator was making on his behalf to clear up a problem with a health code inspection.
Levitis, who has pleaded not guilty, was caught on tape telling another favor-seeker that for $3,000 plus another fundraiser for the senator he could get Kruger to help him work things out between his own nightclub and the State Liquor Authority.
Kruger’s attorney, Ben Brafman, says his client is in the clear and that it’s just a case of Levitis bragging about his contacts.
But campaign records show Levitis kicked in $1,500 in campaign donations to Kruger in 2008 in addition to hosting the fundraiser. The Post reported that Kruger’s top aide, Jason Koppel, is also part of the probe.
Kruger has the richest war chest of any state senator, with more than $2.1 million in the kitty right now. The money enables the fireplug-shaped warrior from south Brooklyn to live better than most of us, as the Voice reported a couple of years ago.
The two new probes help make the senate the most investigated legislative body since the Forty Thieves of the New York City Council, circa 1852, which is a pretty impressive record when you think about it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 28, 2010