2011-09-15 / Front Page

UPDATE: Club Putnam Loses Another Member: Maguire Pleads Guilty in Federal Court; Was Top Aide to Leibell

Feds: He asked contractor to obstruct probe ‘to the grave’
Douglas Cunningham

Raymond Maguire pleaded guilty just after noon Thursday to trying to obstruct the federal investigation into former state senator Vincent Leibell, his million-dollar house and millions more in construction work for the Putnam Community Foundation.

Maguire had been Leibell’s top aide, chief of staff and general enforcer. Leibell is already serving a 21-month sentence in federal prison in Pennsylvania.

Unlike Leibell, who spent last year running one of the most vicious county executive campaigns in Putnam County history while denying all wrongdoing, Maguire threw himself before the court and ask for mercy in a noontime appearance. In fact, aside from reporters and lawyers and agents involved in the case, the courtroom was nearly deserted.

Maguire told Judge Cathy Seibel, when she asked for a description in his own words, that he had asked the contractor in spring and summer 2010 to help obstruct the probe and cover up wrongdoing: “I understood what I was doing was dishonest and illegal, and I am ashamed of what I did and of the role I played.”

Maguire’s lawyer, Richard D. Willstatter of White Plains, said that Maguire and prosecutors asked that he be allowed to return to New York, from military service abroad, for the proceedings.

“Ray Maguire was serving this Country in Afghanistan as a captain in the Air Force, but he voluntarily returned to New York to accept responsibility for committing a crime,” Willstatter said Wednesday afternoon, as word broke of the federal charge. “He is a good man who did wrong here. He is very sorry. We believe that a prison sentence would be inappropriate and hope to convince the Court not to send Ray Maguire to jail.”

After a 30-minute court proceeding Thursday before Seibel, Willstatter, with Maguire at his side, said, “Today, Ray Maguire accepted for responsibility” for obstructing a federal investigation into Leibell’s house. “Mr. Maguire acted out of a misplaced loyalty …, but he offers no excuse for his conduct. We do not believe he should be sent to jail.”

Willstatter also said that Maguire had submitted his resignation to the Air Force. Until recent days, he had been serving in a support unit in Afghanistan.

Maguire, 47, of Patterson, had first appeared Wednesday morning before Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge George A. Yanthis in White Plains federal court and pleaded not guilty.

The case has already taken down Maguire’s former boss, Leibell, who was long Putnam’s most powerful politician while state senator, but is now in federal prison after pleading guilty in December to obstruction of justice and accepting thousands of dollars in illegal payments, actually kickbacks he had demanded, including from a lawyer working for his Putnam Community Foundation.

The Foundation is again a central component of this piece of the case. Federal prosecutors charged that Leibell controlled the Foundation, whose main task has been to build senior housing, and that Maguire helped administer it. The authorities allege that a “favored contractor” received multiple contracts from the Foundation for construction work, worth close to $10 million, between 2002 and 2010.

Meanwhile, according to prosecutors, from 2004 through 2009, Leibell was having a 6,000-square-foot house built for his family, at a cost of more than $1.7 million.

Maguire acted as Leibell’s general contractor, and arranged, among other things, to have the favored contractor provide deeply discounted construction services to Leibell, even as the contractor got million of dollars in other work from the Foundation. In court Thursday, that amount was pegged at $50,000 of work, for which Leibell initially paid $5,000.

Subsequently, when the federal investigation began in 2010, Maguire is said to have told the favored contractor to “clean up the paper” by preparing fake invoices, to make sure their stories all matched, and to take the scheme to prepare phony invoices “to the grave.”

William Aronwald, the Foundation’s lawyer, said Wednesday that the Foundation had done nothing wrong, that the Foundation and its officers are not viewed as “targets” or “subjects” of the federal corruption case, and that the Foundation has cooperated with authorities.

“I’m sure that the Foundation has no knowledge of what you speak,” Aronwald said. “I’m sure the Foundation was not in any way complicit” or aware of any corruption tied to either man.

MaryEllen Odell, Leibell’s opponent last year, said prosecutors are helping ensure “that the people of Putnam County will have a government that is free of corruption and pay-to-play politics. I believe we will all be stronger and better for having endured this unfortunate period in Putnam’s history.”

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