Federal authorities are investigating a corruption complaint against State Senator James Sanders

State Sen. James Sanders, Jr., denies the allegations

By LOUIS FLORES

State Sen. James Sanders, Jr. (D-South Ozone Park), is the target of a Federal corruption probe, according to a report published by The New York Post.

The confirmation of the Federal corruption probe came as news broke that operators of an Inwood, Queens, social welfare group called, Culinary Kids, Culinary Arts Initiatives, had been reportedly offered grant funding, provided that the group gave State Sen. Sanders a kickback.

State Sen. James Sanders, Jr.  Source :  New York State Senate/CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US

State Sen. James Sanders, Jr.  Source :  New York State Senate/CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US

The alleged offer of funding and the demand for a kickback was made when State Sen. Sanders was formerly a member of the New York City Council, according to The New York Post report.

After officials with Culinary Kids, Culinary Arts Initiatives rejected State Sen. Sanders’ alleged overtures, the social welfare group reportedly was unable to receive support from other government officials.

As a consequence, officials with Culinary Kids, Culinary Arts Initiatives filed a civilian crime report with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district, alleging wrong-doing on the part of State Sen. Sanders.  Civilian crime reports are a vehicle for whistleblowers to alert Federal prosecutors about suspected corruption and other crimes.

In a statement sent to the press, State Sen. Sanders strongly denied the allegations.

“I believe this a politically motivated, slanderous hit piece,” read State Sen. Sanders’ statement, to which he added, “The truth is being stood on its head.  I built my political life as a reformer, one who has worked tirelessly to clean up our community and to be accused of seeking a kickback defies reality.  To be accused of such a crime is an attempt to tarnish my history of standing against corruption.”

Although no charges being filed, yet, State Sen. Sanders was already predicting judicial vindication, writing, “We shall have our day in court.  The money seeking group will have to answer for their perjury and the puppet masters responsible for using them to smear me will have to answer for their actions.”

In the statement, State Sen. Sanders promised to be appearing at the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Monday, “with an attorney present,” where he will “offer to take a polygraph (lie detector test) to clear his name.”  State Sen. Sanders made a demand that officials with Culinary Kids, Culinary Arts Initiatives, which he referred to as the “money seeking group,” must also submit to a polygraph test.

“These specious allegations cannot go unanswered.  There are laws afoot and one of them is called perjury,” State Sen. Sanders wrote in his statement, adding that, “We are calling upon U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to enforce the law on perjury, the law on giving a false statement.”

U.S. Attorney Bharara is the nation’s top Federal prosecutor for New York’s southern district.

In a report published in December 2015, The New York Post had previously noted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was purportedly investigating approximately $3 million from the New York City Council speaker’s slush fund that State Sen. Sanders had directed to nonprofit groups in Queens, when he was a New York City Councilmember. 

The timing of the complaint against State Sen. Sanders create a challenge to his Congressional campaign.  Union groups in New York have recently expressed support for State Sen. Sanders in a primary race against U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-Queens).  As reported by Progress Queens, union groups have become disillusioned with U.S. Representative Meeks over his support for the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, and opponents of the controversial trade deal had been looking to State Sen. Sanders’ Congressional campaign to either pressure U.S. Representative Meeks to end his support for the trade deal, or else to replace him with State Sen. Sanders, who has expressed his opposition to the TPP.