Gov. Brian Benjamin inquired about ‘shady campaign donor’
Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin was questioned by the feds amid a reported probe into whether he was allegedly involved in a scheme to illegally funnel contributions to his failed campaign for city comptroller last year.
Benjamin admitted to The Post that he was interviewed earlier this year in connection with the conspiracy and wire fraud charges filed in November against Harlem landlord and lawyer Gerald Migdol, who’s accused of making illegal, “straw” donations to Benjamin’s campaign.
Benjamin, a former state senator from Harlem and supporter of the “defund the police” movement, was vague on the details of his sit-down with federal law enforcement authorities and said that neither he nor Hochul was under investigation.
Benjamin, who made those remarks last week, claimed Sunday that they were “off the record.”
Benjamin, who is referred to as “Candidate-1” in Migdol’s indictment, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
But a report Sunday said Manhattan federal prosecutors issued several grand jury subpoenas late last year for fundraising records related to Migdol and several associates from Benjamin’s campaign committee, several paid staffers and consulting firms.
The investigation is seeking to determine how deeply Benjamin was involved in his campaign’s fundraising operation, according to the New York Times, which cited three unidentified sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
A source close to Benjamin’s campaign for comptroller confirmed to The Post that the committee had received federal subpoenas last fall.
More recently, prosecutors also began seeking records from the state Senate related to discretionary spending he directed to his former district, the Times said, citing two officials briefed on that subpoena.
Benjamin served in the Senate from 2017 until September, when newly minted Gov. Kathy Hochul picked him as her No. 2 following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo over a sexual harassment scandal.
Hochul and Benjamin, both Democrats, are seeking full-four years terms in the November elections.
Migdol allegedly funneled more than $2,000 in small donations to Benjamin’s comptroller campaign so the candidate could qualify for taxpayer-financed matching funds from the city Board of Elections, according to his Manhattan federal court indictment.
He also personally donated $400 to Benjamin, city campaign-finance records show.
Migdol has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which carry more than 40 years in prison, and is free on a $250,000 bond.
The longtime Democratic donor — who hosted a 2000 US Senate fundraiser for Hillary Clinton and backed her 2016 presidential campaign — was scheduled to appear in court for a status conference last month.
But it was postponed until April 15 at the request of prosecutors “to permit additional time for the parties to discuss the case,” court records show.
During a pretrial conference in December, a prosecutor twice said both sides were working “toward a disposition,” without elaborating.
It’s unclear if Migdol is cooperating against Benjamin but at least two of the subpoenas that appear tied to the investigation of him were issued shortly after Migdol’s arrest, the Times said, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.
The Benjamin probe is reportedly also being conducted by the same assistant US attorneys who are prosecuting Migdol.
Veteran election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder, who’s part of Migdol’s defense team and is generally very chatty with reporters, declined to say what kind of deal was being negotiated.
“I’m not going to discuss my clients with you,” Goldfeder said repeatedly.
In January 2021, The City website reported that Benjamin received a $250 donation from Migdol’s grandson, then 2, who was listed on campaign finance documents as a “student.”
Benjamin pledged to return the toddler’s donation and those from 22 other people, including Migdol’s wife, after The City reported they were made by an intermediary, Michael “Mic” Murphy.
Murphy, who sang the ’80s synth-pop hit “Don’t Disturb This Groove,” is the treasurer of Migdol’s nonprofit “Friends of Public School Harlem,” according to its latest tax-exempt filing.
He didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
A spokesperson for Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams declined to comment.