By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Nov 14 (Reuters) - A former state lawmaker accused
of offering to pass $80,000 stuffed in a fruit basket to bribe
Manhattan prosecutors on behalf of a defendant facing tax
charges pleaded guilty on Wednesday to wire fraud.
Jimmy Meng, 69, who represented Queens in the state Assembly
from 2004 to 2006, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge
Allyne Ross in Brooklyn to one count of wire fraud, which
carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Under a plea
deal, government prosecutors have agreed to seek a sentence of
between 12 and 18 months.
Prosecutors say that Meng was approached in 2011 by Eric Hu,
who had been charged with tax crimes in New York state court in
Manhattan. Hu asked Meng for help negotiating a more favorable
plea deal with prosecutors, the complaint said.
Meng allegedly promised to get the prison sentence reduced
to one year, well below a deal offered by prosecutors, if Hu
handed over $20,000 for each of four assistant district
attorneys assigned to the case, the complaint said. The two men
discussed the plan several times over the phone, and Meng asked
that the money be hidden in a fruit basket.
Meng was arrested on July 24, just after he accepted the
fruit basket from Hu in the parking lot of a Queens lumber yard
owned by Meng, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Meng, who is the father of Grace Meng, a Democrat who was
elected last week to represent Queens in the U.S. House of
Representatives, said during Wednesday's hearing that he never
intended to bribe prosecutors and meant to keep the money for
A lawyer for Meng, Todd Greenberg, said that his client was
a "good and decent" man who acted out of character.
"This case involves a lapse of judgment," Greenberg said
after the hearing.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said Meng
"dangled the promise of justice for sale, but his claims of
special access to prosecutors were nothing more than lies,
designed to satisfy his greed."
The case is U.S. v. Meng, U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of New York, No. 12-704.
For the U.S.: Todd Kaminsky
For Meng: Todd Greenberg.
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