Hevesi Released; Consultant Avoids Jail

  • Served 20 months in corruption probe
  • Luxury travel was among illicit gifts
  • Consultant gets conditional discharge

Hevesi left the Mid-State Correctional Facility, a medium-security state prison in upstate Marcy, New York, about 100 miles west of the state capital, Albany, around 8 a.m. EST, the Department of Corrections said. “He was picked up by his son, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi,” Peter Cutler, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Corrections, said in an e-mail message.

Hevesi, who as comptroller was head of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the nation’s third largest pension fund, had served 20 months of a one-to-four-year sentence and was granted parole after a hearing last month.

“I got arrogant,” Hevesi told the parole board at the Nov. 14 hearing, according to a transcript. Keeping company with Wall Street billionaires and heads of state, he said he became “a big shot” in his “own head” and felt he was “entitled” to “perks,” too. Among the gifts Hevesi accepted were luxury travel expenses.

Hevesi had a 35-year career in public office, serving as a state assemblyman, New York city comptroller, and state comptroller. He sought the Democratic nomination for New York City mayor in 2001. He holds a doctorate in public law and government from Columbia University in New York.

Hevesi’s fall from grace began when he resigned as state comptroller in 2006 and pleaded guilty to defrauding the government by using a state employee to chauffeur his wife. He was spared jail time for that crime but agreed never to seek elected office again. The probe of corruption at the New York state pension fund was conducted by former New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo, now the state’s governor.

Eight people pleaded guilty in the scandal, including Elliott Broidy, founder of Markstone Capital Partners, the Los Angeles-based private investment firm.

Other high-profile players in the private equity world also got swept up in the probe, including Steve Rattner, co-founder of the Quadrangle Group, who resigned in 2009 as head of the U.S. auto task force as the investigation intensified. Rattner settled the probe for $10 million but has continued to profess his innocence.

Separately, the founder of a Texas pension consulting firm who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the scheme will not have to serve jail time, a state judge ruled. Saul Meyer, 42, pleaded guilty in 2009 and agreed to cooperate in the New York investigation. Meyer admitted he paid Hevesi’s chief political consultant $300,000 in return for getting money from the pension fund to invest.

“What you did was obviously unacceptable,” New York state Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone said before sentencing Meyer to a conditional discharge, meaning he would avoid prison. Stone said Meyer tried to make up for his wrongs by cooperating with the probe in New York and a similar investigation in New Mexico. Besides a felony conviction for securities fraud, he said Meyer paid $1 million in restitution.

Karen Freifeld is a correspondent for Reuters in New York.