Public corruption, which is sometimes referred to as political corruption, occurs when someone in a position of public trust or authority breaches the trust invested in them or abuses their power. If a government official accepts, demands, or solicits any incentive or benefit that has an impact on their public responsibilities, they may be guilty of this offense.
Examples of public corruption offenses include:
Public corruption offenses are usually investigated and prosecuted by federal law enforcement agencies: the belief that public corruption weakens society’s structure and even makes it possible for threats like terrorism to gain strength make these crimes a top priority for the FBI.
New York state law punishes certain offenses classifiable as public corruption, such as bribery and fraud. Commercial Bribe Receiving in the Second Degree occurs when someone in a position of responsibility or trust seeks, takes, or agrees to take an incentive of value in exchange for influencing their conduct. It is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine not to exceed $1,000.
Commercial Bribe Receiving in the First Degree requires that the value of the benefit must exceed $1,000 and create economic harm to the employer or principal in excess of $250. It is a class E felony punishable by 1-4 years in prison.
Another crime closely tied to public corruption is Offering a False Instrument for Filing. In the First Degree, it is a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison, while Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree is a class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail.
In addition to legal penalties, anyone convicted of a public corruption offense could have their personal and professional reputation permanently damaged. It is important to hire an experienced New York criminal defense attorney immediately. Acting quickly can also help to clear a government official’s name and protect their future in the public service.
Commercial bribery, criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records, grand larceny, offering a false instrument for filing
Mental disease / defect, false accusation, and proven lack of intent to knowingly commit an illegal act can all be presented as defenses.
Federal law dictates that any government official who requests, receives, or accepts a bribe can be fined up to three times the value of the incentive and/or imprisoned for up to 15 years, as well as be prohibited from holding any additional political or government office in the United States.
Schemes to defraud are also punished severely in federal courts. Depending on the type of fraud, a federal judge could hand down a sentence that mandates up to 20 years in a federal prison, along with a fine. If a financial institution was defrauded, the prison term could be extended to 30 years and the fine increased to $1,000,000.
In May 2014 NYC Councilman Ruben Wills was charged with planning to defraud two public agencies of more than $30,000. He allegedly used New York 4 Life Inc., a nonprofit company he controlled, along with Micro Targeting, a shell company, to direct $11,500 in campaign funds to himself for personal use. Wills was also accused of taking nearly $19,000 of a $33,000 state grant to the nonprofit company. He and a relative working with him were charged in a 12-count indictment that included scheming to defraud the state and the city Campaign Finance Board, grand larceny, offering a false instrument for filing, and falsifying business records.