NEW YORK (AP) — A former New York City councilman will spend five years in prison for misdirecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for community projects to his girlfriend and family instead, a judge said Tuesday.
Larry Seabrook, 61, a Bronx Democrat, received a sentence that was less than the seven to nine years in prison that the government had requested but far more than the non-prison sentence that his lawyers said he deserved.
U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts said Seabrook “held himself above the law” and acted illegally as a result of his sense of “entitlement, arrogance, nepotism and greed.” She also ordered him to pay $619,715 in restitution, including roughly $418,000 that he must forfeit. He was told to surrender by March 8.
Prior to the announcement of sentence, Seabrook told Batts he remained a “proud man” though he had accepted the jury’s verdict. Though no longer a councilman, he said he would continue to fight for others.
The judge took Seabrook’s achievements into consideration in deciding the sentence, but only minimally, saying “his qualities and accomplishments as a public official are vastly diminished” by his crimes.
Last summer, he was convicted of nine of 12 counts in a federal trial. The government presented evidence that Seabrook misdirected more than $2 million from 2002 through 2009 by channeling it to nonprofit organizations that he controlled but were not doing legitimate work.
Prosecutors said Seabrook paid more than $400,000 in salary and consulting fees over the seven-year span to his girlfriend, siblings and other relatives. They said the girlfriend took a salary even though she was unqualified to run a nonprofit.
The government also alleged at trial that Seabrook used a political club to launder public funds for personal use and evidence offered by prosecutors included a receipt that Seabrook submitted for reimbursement that had been doctored to boost the cost of a $7 bagel sandwich and a Snapple to $177.
After the sentence was announced, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement calling Seabrook “a flagrant and a serial abuser of City Council discretionary funds in a far too familiar New York tale of corruption.”
The conviction came a year after another jury deadlocked on fraud charges. At both trials, Seabrook, also a former state assemblyman and senator, vigorously denied any wrongdoing.
The case emerged from a wider probe into possible abuse of discretionary funds that the City Council sets aside for its members to use on community projects of their choice.