New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has surrendered to authorities to face campaign finance fraud-related charges in connection with a past campaign, two people familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Benjamin is expected to appear in Manhattan federal court later Tuesday. Governor Kathy Hochul's office couldn't immediately be reached for comment on the arrest, nor could a representative for Benjamin, NBC New York reports.
His arrest comes after reports that Manhattan federal prosecutors and the FBI were investigating whether Benjamin knowingly engaged in a campaign finance fraud scheme. Subpoenas were issued in connection with the investigation, two sources familiar with the subpoenas said at the time.
The investigators also looked into whether Benjamin helped dole out state money to contributors and/or their projects as part of the alleged fraud.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney and a spokesman for the FBI both previously declined WNBC requests for comment regarding the investigation into Benjamin.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins also did not return requests for comment.
Benjamin was appointed lieutenant governor by Governor Kathy Hochul in 2021, shortly after losing a primary bid for New York City comptroller. He previously served as the New York State Senator for District 30, which is made up of Harlem, East Harlem (El Barrio), the Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights and Morningside Heights.
The investigation into Benjamin came after the FBI arrested his fundraiser, Gerald Migdol, in November. He is charged with wire fraud in connection with an alleged campaign fraud scheme linked to past Benjamin fundraising.
A lawyer for Migdol did not return requests for comment.
Following the confirmation that Benjamin was being investigated, the lieutenant governor's office referred questions to its November 19 press statement issued at the time of Migdol's arrest in which it said it was prepared to cooperate.
"Neither Lieutenant Governor Benjamin nor his campaign are being accused of any wrongdoing and they are prepared to fully cooperate with authorities," it said. "As soon as the campaign discovered that these contributions were improperly sourced, they donated them to the Campaign Finance Board, pursuant to guidance obtained from the CFB."
Details of the investigation were first reported by the Daily News, and subsequently the New York Times.
Benjamin's arrest is just the latest scandal in New York's political realm.
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the most powerful politicians in the state for decades before being ousted and sent to prison on corruption charges, fall from grace was also due to misconduct.
Silver, who passed away behind bars earlier this year, at one time was one of the three most powerful state officials in New York. He was the Assembly’s leader for more than two decades before his abrupt ouster in 2015 after the corruption allegations emerged.
He was ultimately convicted in a scheme that involved a type of illegal back-scratching that has long plagued Albany. He supported legislation that benefited real estate developers he knew. In return, they referred tax business to a law firm that employed Silver, which then paid him fees.
Additionally, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also faced a political scandal that led him to resign amid sexual harassment allegations.
While Cuomo stepped down last year, it appears he is contemplating a political comeback and dangling the possibility he may run for his former job just six months after he resigned amid sexual harassment allegations.
Cuomo gave a campaign-style speech in March to a friendly audience of about 100 people in the Bronx, where he framed his fall from power as “cancel culture” run amok.
Asked after his speech if he would run for office, Cuomo told reporters he is “open to all options.”