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Guyanese American politician embroiled in bribery scandal

NEW YORK — A prominent Guyanese American legislator was set to turn himself in today to law enforcement authorities after being ensnared in a bribery scandal involving a former colleague.

New York State Senator John Sampson, 47, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 19th Senatorial District in Brooklyn, told his aides over the weekend that he is preparing to surrender to US federal authorities. He is expected to be charged with obstruction of justice.

The move comes after law enforcement authorities last week revealed that wiretaps show an unnamed state senator, later identified as Sampson, allegedly helped broker an illicit deal in March 2012 between former New York State Senator Shirley Huntley, of Queens, and an unidentified businessman holding a John F Kennedy International Airport lease.

Sampson, whose father is Guyanese-born, was once among the state’s most powerful politicians.

The former Democratic leader in the state senate is currently the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

Federal authorities alleged that Sampson had approached Huntley, then a Democratic state senator from Queens, who recently pleaded guilty to corruption charges, to intercede with the New York Port Authority to land the businessman’s company more airport rental space. Officials said Huntley did and netted a US$1,000 bribe for her efforts.

Sampson’s lawyer, Zachary Carter, declined comment on the current case.

Another probe

Sampson is already being probed by the FBI as part of another investigation involving Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks and US$40,000 that Meeks received from Queens-based, Guyanese real estate broker Edul Ahmad.

Ahmad pleaded guilty in October in a separate US$14 million mortgage-fraud scheme. Sampson worked as a real-estate lawyer for Ahmad.

The FBI is examining a US$100,000 “loan” to Sampson from Ahmad and they are also examining Sampson’s fund-raising activities.

After the FBI got on to Huntley, she agreed to wear a wire to win leniency, wearing the bug between June and August.

Court papers reveal that she wound up recording nine people, including Sampson and six other elected officials, a consultant and a staffer.

Huntley, 74, has pleaded guilty to funnelling more than US$87,000 in taxpayer funds to a bogus charity and then using the money to splurge on lavish shopping trips. She faces up to two years in jail as part of a plea deal. (CMC)

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