May 21, 2013 News
New York (Times Union) – State officials can’t account for US$39,560 in taxpayers’ money that Senator John Sampson steered to a now-defunct Brooklyn charity, the leader of which opened a liquor store with the powerful legislator several months later.
The exact financial relationship between Sampson, who until last year led the Senate Democratic Conference, and Edmon Braithwaite, a Guyanese, is unclear. But Sampson, of Guyanese parentage, noted that he became a “shareholder” in a liquor store Braithwaite owns in 2011, according to a disclosure form. The State Liquor Authority refused a Times Union request for details on the store because “disclosure of the information and documents requested would interfere with an ongoing
Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, was charged earlier this month with embezzling US$440,000 from mortgage accounts and then threatening to “take … out” potential witnesses against a business associate, Guyanese Ed Ahmad, who is also facing jail time for a huge mortgage fraud in the Queens area that spanned several years and included straw buyers. Ahmad apparently struck a deal with the prosecutors and reportedly secretly taped Sampson who was attempting to get rid of witnesses against Ahmad.
Sampson pleaded not guilty. Federal prosecutors said the case against him is ongoing; they also revealed that Sampson was taped by a former colleague, ex-Sen. Shirley Huntley, at the direction of the FBI.
Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, would not answer specific questions about Braithwaite, Sampson, or the liquor store. “The case against Senator Sampson is pending and the investigation is ongoing,” Nardoza said.
Sampson’s spokesman, Mike Roberts, said that the senator relinquished his stake in Braithwaite’s liquor store — Gateway Wine and Spirits in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood — earlier this year, and said questions about it were “moot.” Roberts said no law enforcement officials had inquired about the matter.
“Why would they?” he asked. “We’re looking for storms in teacups, I suspect. The senator did what any senator, when their constituents petition them, would do.”
Braithwaite did not comment. After a week of calls and emails, he left the Times Union a voicemail late Friday saying he had been unable to respond because he was undergoing radiation treatment for cancer. He did not return subsequent calls.
A Guyanese immigrant and entrepreneur, Braithwaite is known in Brooklyn political circles as the founder of One Caribbean Radio. The station runs a talk format aimed at the three million-plus Caribbean immigrants and launched on an AM frequency in October 2007. It now broadcasts via the Internet.
According to a 2008 profile by New York Daily News columnist, Clem Richardson, the station quickly became a destination for elected officials seeking to reach Caribbean Americans, many of whom live in central Brooklyn. The station’s guests have included area legislators like Sampson and Senator Kevin Parker, as well as then-City Council members Letitia James, David Yassky, Bill de Blasio and District Attorney Charles Hynes.
Hynes, who is white, made a monthly appearance and described Braithwaite as “a great guy.”
Braithwaite formed the One Caribbean Foundation in May 2008 and applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status in July 2010, records show. Its mission is “to organize and administer a charitable scholarship fund for individuals of Caribbean heritage, to be used for educational and medical assistance,” according to the IRS application.
It also planned to “embark on a programme to train and teach inner city underprivileged youth the inner workings of a functional digital radio station” — One Caribbean Radio.
Sampson earmarked a US$100,000 member item for the foundation as part of the 2009-10 budget. The grant was administered by the Office of Children and Family Services, which sent $39,560 to the foundation in October 2010, state records show.
One Caribbean Foundation has three listed directors: Braithwaite and his wife, Myrie, as well as Charles Mohan.
Mohan, an adjunct professor and consultant, said he became acquainted with Braithwaite through various Guyanese-American groups and was a commentator on One Caribbean Radio when Braithwaite recruited him for the foundation. He is listed as its treasurer.
“It never got off the ground. I never really participated or know if there was anything done. As far as I know, nothing was done,” Mohan said. He said his last involvement with the foundation was in July 2010, when he signed the IRS application.
Mohan said that he was unaware of the $39,560 state grant.
According to OCFS spokeswoman Jennifer Givner, the money was considered an advance payment, but the One Caribbean Foundation never filed paperwork documenting its spending — as was required.
OCFS referred the matter to the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in July 2012. State lawyers sued One Caribbean Foundation for the money, but Braithwaite ignored a summons. Last month, state lawyers filed a judgment for $49,411.19 — the US$39,560 plus interest and fees — with the Albany County clerk.
Michelle Hook, a spokesman for Schneiderman, said One Caribbean Foundation hasn’t submitted required annual filings since 2010, and its charitable status was revoked earlier this year.
Roberts said Sampson had not tracked One Caribbean’s progress.
“He funded an organization, like any other organization, it met the legal threshold for funding at the time. … From our understanding, the money was earmarked for internships in communication and radio, and that was done,” he said. “What does Senator Sampson have to do with that? That would be my question.”
Jun 23, 2021Kaieteur News – The Guyana Badminton Association Team of President Gokarn Ramdhani, Vice President Ayanna Watson and Secretary Emelia Ramdhani along with National and International Champions...
Kaieteur News – I met Leyland DeCambra at the beginning of the 70s. It was a friendship that has lasted ever since.... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders More commonality was shown by CARICOM countries in a vote on Tuesday June 15 at the Organisation of... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]