2011-07-08 / Top Stories

Ethics Committee Has Meeks In Gunsight

By Howard Schwach

Sometimes, Congressman Gregory Meeks should feel like he has a target painted on his back.

Stories have been circulating in both the daily and local press for two years that Meeks was under investigation by both federal and state investigators for a number of reported transgressions. Now, however, a report surfaced this week that the House Ethics Committee is investigating Meeks, who represents the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula, for “possible ethics violations.”

The Queens Democrat is under a federal investigation that focuses, at least in part, on a $40,000 loan he received in 2007 from a politically-connected Queens businessman.

Meeks failed to report the loan on his required financial disclosure forms for the two years in question and only paid it back when the FBI began to question the loan.

Officials at the committee declined to say on what the current investigation is focusing. In a press release issued just prior to the July 4 vacation, the committee acknowledged the investigation, which, it says, began in mid-May.

The committee statement said that the probe would be completed by August 16.

A spokesperson for Meeks said that the Congressman would “respect the committee’s process and withhold any comment until it completes its work.”

Earlier this year, the New York Post reported that the Far Rockaway Congressman purported to hold a fundraiser in Las Vegas for his Build America Political Action Committee, but his office refused all requests to say how much he had raised or who had attended the fundraiser.

The latest financial disclosure for the PAC, covering the last two months of 2010, shows the group spent $8,063 at a Las Vegas resort for “catering, site rental and lodging.”

But the report shows that the PAC did not take in any donations during that period, despite shelling out more than $12,000 to fundraising consultants and another $4,000 to a Meeks staffer.

According to the Post reporters, Meeks pays thousands of dollars a year for “administrative consulting services” to Einna Corp., a firm incorporated by Meeks’ campaign treasurer, Patsy Simmons, the wife of Bob Simmons, Meeks’ chief of staff and a Democratic District Leader in the Far Rockaway area.

Thegrand jury is seeking a slew of documents from Meeks dating back to 2000 that detail the charities founded by him and State Senator Malcolm Smith, and the status of several nonprofit groups linked to the two, the sources said.

Meeks is embroiled in several controversies – national, international, local, and any of them could be the focus of the current Ethics Committee probe, political insiders say.

There are several ongoing investigations as to Meeks’ financial doings, as reported in The Wave over the past year.

The probe could be into Meeks’ alleged role as an influence-peddling messenger boy to Hugo Chavez on behalf of Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford just before Stanford’s empire collapsed. Or, the probe could be of Meeks’ suspicious sweetheart purchase of a big, new home. Maybe it concerns his Hurricane Katrina charity fund, NOAH-F, which produced only a trickle of money but buckets of suspicious behavior. Perhaps the probe is looking into the non-profit, New Directions in Community Empowerment, that Meeks and State Senator Smith formed to work with Far Rockaway youth and the $250,000 in airport money that went into the non-profit and never came out.

The website, Politico, reports that “the subpoena covered a period going back to 2000 and seeks a broad range of documents from the seven-term lawmaker.”

Politico recently provided what it terms, “A scandal roundup.” -Meeks bought a new home in Queens in 2006 for $830,000 from real estate developer Richard Dennis. But just last month, the Times reported that he may have gotten the kind of sweet deal that only a corrupt pol would merit. Also under scrutiny is additional work reportedly done to the home by architect Robert Gaskin. According to the Daily News, a grand jury may be investigating the connection between the work Gaskin did for Meeks and several other Queens politicians and the contracts he received to do work for non-profits they managed. Federal prosecutors are investigating a charity set up by Meeks and Smith to provide relief to victims of Hurricane Katrina, which allegedly raised $31,000 but has only disbursed $1,392.

-The Chavez Affair: Meeks allegedly flew to Venezuela to carry a message to Chavez on behalf of Ponzi schemer Stanford.

-The non-profit “New Directions” was provided with $250,000 by the developer of a new cargo facility on Rockaway Turnpike, across from JFK Airport. The money was to be used for working with community youth in an anti-violence program. Neither Meeks nor Smith has been able to detail where the money has gone, despite the fact that many of their functionaries were in control of the non-profit.

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