By Jim Kouri
Sandy Annabi, the former Democratic Majority Leader of the Yonkers (New York) City Council, and Zehy Jereis, the former head of the Yonkers (New York) Republican Party, were found guilty on Thursday by a jury in Manhattan federal court of government corruption crimes, according to a Justice Department report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police.
The two politicians were convicted for participating in bribery schemes related to Annabi’s position on the Yonkers City Council as well as the actions they took to conceal those schemes. Annabi was also convicted of making false statements to financial institutions related to loans she was seeking for two houses and an apartment in Yonkers, New York and for filing false federal income tax returns, according to a former police detective following the case who spoke with the Law Enforcement Examiner.
The two defendants were convicted on all counts after a seven-week trial before U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon. Annabi, 41, and Jereis, 40, both of Yonkers, New York, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to make and accept corrupt payments, one count of conspiracy to deprive the city of Yonkers and its citizens of Annabi’s honest services, one count of receiving corrupt payments, and one count of extortion.
Annabi was also convicted of one count of receiving corrupt payments, three counts of making false statements to a bank, and two counts of filing false tax returns. Jereis was also convicted of one count of making corrupt payments.
“When more and more Americans called for bipartisan cooperation between members of the Democratic and Republican Parties, cooperation in a corruption conspiracy is not what they had in mind,” said former New York City Detective Theodore Knudsen, who investigated white-collar crime and corruption for the NYPD.
“Today’s convictions of Sandy Annabi and Zehy Jereis on all counts are a victory for the citizens of Yonkers who—like all Americans—deserve fair and honest government, and not government driven by bribes and riven with backroom deals. These guilty verdicts are yet another clarion call to corrupt public officials and those who contemplate buying their influence, that we will do everything within our power to root out, prosecute, and punish this conduct. It is conduct that erodes the public’s trust and confidence in government and poisons the legislative process,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara.
According to the evidence at trial and the indictment originally filed in White Plains federal court: Annabi was first elected to the Yonkers City Council in November 2001 to represent the Second District and was subsequently re-elected in 2003 and 2005. She served as the Democratic Majority Leader of the Council during the latter part of her third term in office. The Yonkers City Council’s primary function is to consider and vote on the city’s budget, zoning changes, and other legislation.
Meanwhile, Zehy Jereis served as chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party from the fall of 2003 through the fall of 2007. As the party chairman, his duties were to promote the Republican Party in Yonkers and to advance the interests of Republican elected officials and candidates. Jereis used his considerable influence and contacts to assist Annabi — a Democrat — with all three of her successful campaigns.
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Since 2001, Annabi received nearly $200,000 in secret payments from Jereis and others in exchange for taking favorable actions in her official capacity on matters in which they had an interest and that were pending before the City Council. These matters included two real estate projects known as the Longfellow Project and the Ridge Hill Development project.
Jereis also secretly gave Annabi money and “loans” to finance the purchase of two residential properties located outside of her Council District. To obtain favorable financing, Annabi simultaneously submitted applications to two different banks, advising both that she intended to occupy the house for which she was seeking financing and concealing that she was seeking to borrow money from the other bank for a second house. The closings for the two loans occurred only three days apart.
Annabi lived in one of these houses, which was outside of her Council District, despite state and local laws that required her as a Councilmember to live within her District. Jereis then purchased a cooperative apartment for Annabi within her Council District so she could meet the residency requirement. Jereis paid the down payment on the apartment and made the monthly mortgage payments.
In addition, in her loan applications for one of the houses and for the apartment she purchased, Annabi falsely inflated her income. Her loan applications also included fake pay stubs, W-2s, and bank statements.
From 2002 through 2007, Annabi affirmatively concealed the illegal benefits she received from Jereis and others by filing annual financial disclosure statements that intentionally omitted the illegal payments. Annabi also failed to report the illegal payments she received on federal income tax returns, according to the FBI report.
Annabi faces a maximum sentence of 161 years in prison, and Jereis faces a maximum sentence of 65 years in prison.
Mangone was initially charged with Annabi and Jereis in January 2010. He pled guilty on November 29, 2010 to conspiracy, bribery, extortion, and tax evasion charges and is awaiting sentencing.