Federal authorities raided a government-funded clinic run by the state Senate's majority leader, one day after New York's attorney general accused him of siphoning $14 million from it.
About a dozen FBI and IRS agents and investigators from the attorney general's office appeared Wednesday at the Soundview Healthcare Network in the Bronx, where a big canopy above the front door lists Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. as its president and CEO.
The agents removed Espada campaign posters and other items from an 8-foot-tall, 25-foot-long storage container behind the building. They also stacked boxes on the grass, and agents wearing blue or green gloves leafed through the contents and wrote notes.
One box was marked, "Payroll 205." Another said "Timesheets 205-206."
Espada spokesman Steve Mangione didn't immediately respond to requests for comment left on his cell phone and through e-mail.
FBI spokesman Jim Margolin said only that the search was part of an ongoing investigation.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced a lawsuit accusing Espada of siphoning money used for lavish restaurant meals, trips to Las Vegas and Espada's campaign.
Espada called it a litany of falsehoods. On Tuesday afternoon, he accused the Democratic attorney general of a politically motivated attack. He also accused Cuomo of tapping the phone lines used by himself and his relatives and of taking a "steamroller approach" against political enemies, a reference to the term disgraced and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer once used for himself.
The clinic remained open during Wednesday's raid.
Solsire Bobet said she uses the clinic frequently and was there with two toddlers to get test results.
"I know who he is," she said of Espada. "I know he is responsible for this place."
In the civil suit, Cuomo also accused Espada of getting the Soundview Board of Directors which he controls to give him a guaranteed $9 million severance package which, if was paid out, would bankrupt the clinic.
Cuomo had said a criminal investigation is under way and that charges against Espada could come soon. He said it was a matter of "legal strategy" to take the route of a civil lawsuit on Tuesday, but told reporters "stay tuned."
A Senate official said Espada was headed from Albany to the clinic on Wednesday morning. He has been excused from session for the day.
That leaves Democrats without a majority or enough votes to pass any bills and points to the political element of the Espada investigation. Democrats have a 32-30 majority and need 32 votes to pass a bill.
Espada was a leader of a Republican-backed coup last summer that Espada claims is motivating Cuomo's lawsuit. Espada later rejoined the Democrats and received the majority leader title.
Although Espada is eligible for the large stipend of the majority leader and added staff and resources, he doesn't have the power of a traditional majority leader and is not considered a top leader of the conference.
Associated Press Writers Tom Hays in New York City and Michael Gormley in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.
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