mulberry bags discount Albany grand jury indicts Maziarz
An Albany County grand jury has handed up a sealed indictment that charges former New York State Sen. George Maziarz and his successor, North Tonawanda Republican Robert Ortt, with multiple public corruption counts, the Niagara Gazette has learned.
The precise charges are not available because the indictment remains sealed pending the arrest and arraignment of Maziarz and Ortt in State Supreme Court in Albany.
In a statement released by a spokesperson, Ortt suggested the charges which stem from an investigation into the campaign spending practices of his predecessor were politically motivated. Ortt pointed out that the probe was conducted by investigators from Democratic New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.
“As someone who fought and sacrificed for our country, I am sickened that a career politician and hyper partisan like Eric Schneiderman can concoct baseless charges to serve his own political agenda,” Ortt said. “One thing is clear: the only reason I am included in this is to make their case politically appealing. As multiple news organizations have documented, Eric Schneiderman has been obsessed with using his political office to persecute his political enemies and protect his political allies.”
Ortt voluntarily testified before the Albany County grand jury that was investigating Maziarzon Wednesday.
A source with knowledge of the situation indicated that Ortt agreed to waive immunity in order to testify before the grand jury. The waiver was necessary because Ortt had been identified as a target of the grand jury.
In his statement, Ortt vowed to vigorously defend himself against the charges.
“We look forward to telling voters the truth about Eric Schneiderman and exposing him for the power hungry, political opportunist he is and I will fight this ridiculous charge,” Ortt said.
In addition to the charges being filed against Maziarz and Ortt, the Niagara Gazette has confirmed that former Niagara County GOP Committee Chairman and local attorney Henry Wojtaszek has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection with the investigation conducted by the state attorney general’s Public Integrity Unit. Details of the plea were not immediately available in state supreme court in Albany County.
Wojtaszek is cooperating with the AG’s investigators.
Wojtaszek’s attorney, Patrick Brown, was not available for comment on Wednesday.
The Niagara Gazette also confirmed last week that Meghan Ortt was subpoenaed and testified before the grand jury. A source told the Gazette Ortt’s wife is not a target of the investigation.
Subpoenas seeking information for an Albany County grand jury were also delivered earlier this month to a number of individuals with ties to Maziarz. The list included Republican state Assemblyman Michael Norris, the former head of the GOP Committee in Niagara County. Norris confirmed receipt of a subpoena compelling him to serve as a witness, but declined further comment indicating that it was “not proper at this time to discuss the subject of this investigation.”
Norris is not believed to be the target of the probe being carried out by the Public Integrity Unit from Schneiderman’s office.
The Gazette confirmed Meghan Ortt’s service as a consultant to a pair of Niagara County companies are also involved in the investigation, including Lockport based Regency Communications, a public relations firm established in 2011 by former Niagara County lawmaker and one time aide to Maziarz,
Glenn Aronow. The other company is Synor Marketing Co., a Lockport firm that has for years specialized in the production of campaign materials for candidates and political parties in Niagara County.
Both Aronow and Synor have also been subpoenaed in the Maziarz case.
Meghan Ortt, who received her associates degree in fine arts from Niagara County Community College and who also has a bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State College, was under retainer with both Synor Marketing and Regency Communications in the past.
In an ethics disclosure report filed with the state in 2014, Robert Ortt listed income in the form of consultation fees paid to his wife by Regency Communications in an amount described as more than $1,000 and less than $5,000.
A source indicated that the Ortts followed all disclosure requirements and paid all appropriate taxes on Meghan’s retainer and that payments for services were made directly to Mrs. Ortt.
State prosecutors have been looking into spending from Maziarz’s now defunct campaign fundraising committee. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. Attorney Preet Bharara that stemmed from his resurrection of the work of the state’s Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.
The prosecutors who issued the subpoenas for Norris and others are the same government lawyers who recently charged developer Louis Ciminelli and two high ranking executives of this firm with bribery and related corruption counts involving a pair of powerful state officials.
Among the materials that were transferred from federal to state prosecutors were financial records from Maziarz’s campaign committee.
Maziarz’s white collar criminal defense attorney, Kevin Szanyi, has previously said he knows nothing about the state attorney general’s investigation.
Maziarz’s former campaign committee recently filed a civil suit aimed at compelling the committee’s former treasurer to explain, in greater detail, more than $200,000 in so called “questionable expenditures.”
The former treasurer, Laureen Jacobs, recently filed amended spending reports with the New York State Board of Elections. Sources close to the investigation said Jacobs has been cooperating with the federal prosecutors since 2014, and has done the same with lawyers from with the AG’s Public Integrity Unit.
While state prosecutors have declined to discuss their investigation, it’s believed to center on potentially questionable expenditures by Maziarz’s committee.
Jacobs, along with two former members of Maziarz’s state senate staff, Chief of Staff Alisa Colatarci and Office Manager Marcus Hall,
were served with subpoenas in May 2014 by investigators with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.