Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Monday, 18 May 2009 17:17
At a press conference held May 13 outside the Supreme Court building in Mineola, Nassau County Legislator Roger Corbin (2nd L.D., Westbury), accompanied by his attorney Thomas Liotti, addressed the media for the first time since his arrest earlier this month for allegedly filing false federal tax returns and lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) special agents.
“This matter should have been resolved civilly a long time ago and as a personal, private matter,” Corbin told reporters. “I take full responsibility for any mistakes that I may have made, but after more than 40 years of dedicated public service, the avalanche of negative publicity that has been generated against me is unwarranted and unfair.” He continued, “The FBI and IRS are trying this case in the media because I am a public figure. The matter could have been easily resolved long ago by the filing of amended tax returns and the payment of any taxes that may be due. My accountant is reviewing that now and, if appropriate, that will be done.”
Corbin, 62, a Democratic legislator since 1995, was arrested May 6 on charges that, between Feb. 22, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2007, he received and deposited some 81 checks totaling approximately $226,000 into his personal bank accounts and did not claim any of the money derived from the checks on his federal income taxes for years 2005, 2006 or 2007, therefore owing some $70,000 in back taxes; the checks were allegedly from a developer who had been awarded construction contracts as part of a federally funded revitalization project in New Cassel; Ranjan Batheja of Rosedale-based Stoneridge Homes, the developer, is not named in the complaint and officials state that there are no allegations that Corbin either took bribes or misused his office.
In November 2008, Corbin allegedly told FBI and IRS officials that he did not benefit from the money but instead gave it to an individual who was purportedly paying workers at a New Cassel construction site. A subsequent investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, however, determined that the individual Corbin claimed to be paying had passed away three years prior while a review of bank records revealed that Corbin received and deposited 73 of the checks, totaling approximately $206,500, after that individual’s death. Additionally, special agents state that, during an April 2009 interview, Corbin admitted that he used significant portions of the $226,000 for his personal benefit.
“The defendant violated the law by failing to file truthful federal tax returns – an obligation of all taxpayers, including elected public officials. He then compounded his crime by lying to federal agents to cover his tracks,” stated Eastern District U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell in a press release. “The defendant will now be held to account.”
Liotti, a Garden City criminal defense attorney and Westbury Village Justice, believes that the FBI and IRS are unfairly trying Corbin’s case in the media. “…The government has pursued Roger Corbin because he is a public figure representing a minority district…,” said Corbin. “They have issued press releases and leaks to the press about a private, personal matter. Clearly, this is being done to embarrass and prejudice a fair review of the facts and circumstances of this case.” Liotti announced that, as Corbin’s counsel, he has retained assistance from forensic accountant Peter Goldman, CPA.
Corbin, who pled not guilty before United States Magistrate Arlene R. Lindsay and was released on his own recognizance, remains in office and in his position as chairman of the legislative finance committee. He is scheduled to attend a hearing May 26. If found guilty, Corbin could face up to five years in prison on the false statement charge and up to three years in prison for each of the false tax returns filed as well as a fine of up to $250,000 on each count of conviction. A felony conviction would require Corbin to vacate his seat on the legislature.