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William Rapfogel, power broker with ties to Sheldon Silver, pleads guilty to kickback scheme
A former New York City power broker with ties to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver pleaded guilty Wednesday to participating in a massive kickback scheme in a plea deal that calls for him to receive a 31/3- to 10-year prison sentence and repay a prominent charity $3 million.
William Rapfogel, who led the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty before resigning in August when the scandal broke, pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny in a Manhattan courtroom.
David Cohen, who is also accused of participating in the Met Council scheme, also pleaded guilty to felony charges.
Rapfogel has been under scrutiny since last summer. State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman charged that Rapfogel conspired with Cohen and a Nassau County insurance executive to inflate insurance payments paid by Met Council, a major nonprofit social services group, while pocketing the difference between the inflated costs and actual costs, "amounting to more than $5 million stolen from the organization over roughly 20 years," the complaint said.
"These defendants abused positions of trust to steal millions of dollars from a taxpayer-funded charitable organization -- one that is dedicated to serving New York City's poor," Schneiderman said in a statement after the guilty pleas.
Rapfogel, 59, has known Silver for more than 40 years, since Silver was his youth basketball coach. Silver has said he knew nothing of Rapfogel's activities.
Rapfogel's wife, Judy, is the longtime chief of staff to Silver (D-Manhattan). Rapfogel's lawyer has said she did not know about the scheme.
Some of the money was funneled by Rapfogel and Century Coverage Corp., a Valley Stream insurance agency, into campaign contributions to various politicians, Schneiderman has alleged.
The prosecutor had said Rapfogel received regular payments, either in envelopes stuffed with cash or through checks made out for personal expenses.
At one time, Rapfogel converted $100,000 in cash into a check to help his son purchase a house, the complaint said, and another time used $27,000 to pay a contractor working on his residence. Rapfogel told an investigator that he kept some of the money in his two homes.
In December, Joseph Ross, an owner of Century Coverage and third co-conspirator in the scandal, was the first to admit guilt. Ross pleaded guilty to grand larceny and money laundering charges. Terms were sealed.