A Republican operative was indicted Monday on charges he exploited his reputation to swindle $1.2 million from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, claiming he'd use the funds to help guard against fraud during last fall's election but instead bought a house, prosecutors said.
John Haggerty duped Bloomberg and his political advisers into giving the money to the state Independence Party to help with ballot security during the mayor's campaign for a third term, according to District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
Haggerty, who now works for Carl Paladino, the Buffalo businessman running for governor, was indicted by a grand jury on charges of grand larceny, money laundering and falsifying business records. He was awaiting arraignment Monday afternoon.
Haggerty's company, Special Elections Operations, also was indicted.
Haggerty has previously declined to comment; his attorney could not immediately be reached Monday. Bloomberg said the DA asked him not to discuss the case and declined to comment.
"You may be asking yourselves how John Haggerty managed to dupe Mayor Michael Bloomberg, his staff and his advisers. A group of highly educated, sophisticated people," Vance said.
"To put it simply: They trusted him."
Haggerty worked on Bloomberg's election campaign in 2005 and for former Gov. George Pataki as well as the former Westchester district attorney, Jeanine Pirro.
He used none of the money for the polling operation, the DA said. The house he bought was his late father's home in Forest Hills, an upscale section of New York City's Queens borough.
Some of the money is still with the party. Prosecutors have asked for it to be returned.
The money came from Bloomberg's personal fortune, not campaign contributions. Bloomberg has been cooperating with investigators, Vance said.
The party has not been charged criminally in the case but the investigation is continuing and the DA's office said the party has not cooperated.
Haggerty was hired to do ballot security for Bloomberg's re-election campaign last year. A term-limit law had barred Bloomberg from seeking a third, consecutive term, but he orchestrated a last-minute law change that let him run again in 2009.
Bloomberg wired checks in October and November 2009 to the party, which turned most of it over to Haggerty for several tasks, including setting up an office to encourage Queens residents to vote for the mayor. It contributed to more than 36,000 Independence votes for Bloomberg.
In an effort to show he had used the money legitimately, Haggerty wrote three phony checks from his company to political workers, Vance said. The checks were not cashed, and the workers were not charged.
Paladino, who is attempting to petition his way to a Republican primary for governor, said Haggerty will continue to be a strategist for his campaign.
"Like all Americans, John Haggerty enters this investigation with the presumption of innocence," said a statement issued by Paladino's spokesman, Michael Caputo.
"Unlike a typical career politician, Carl Paladino doesn't throw his friends under the bus," it said. "John joined our campaign just 45 days ago and he quickly became a part of our family. He's a loyal and straightforward man of character."
Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay said Monday that he had not seen the indictment and therefore had no immediate comment.
Associated Press writers Sara Kugler Frazier and Beth Fouhy in New York and Michael Gormley in Albany contributed to this report.
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