New York Daily News
ON RUDY’S WATCH
n Feds call Kerik big-time scammer who ripped off city nHe pleads not guilty, sez it’s another fight like 9/11
BERNARD KERIK LIED, schemed and sold out the city — all under the nose of his mentor and pal, presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.
That is the stark portrait painted in the 16-count indictment unsealed yesterday in White Plains Federal Court almost exactly one year before Election Day 2008.
While the political fallout remains uncertain, the effect on Kerik’s image as a Sept. 11 hero is devastating.
In meticulous detail, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia assembled count after count painting Kerik as a money-grubbing liar who tried to cover his tracks.
The indictment says the misdeeds took place as Giuliani promoted his former driver to the top levels of his administration, from running city prisons to heading the largest police force in America.
Yesterday, Kerik, 52, stood ramrod straight in white shirt, red tie and navy blue jacket to declare “not guilty, your honor” in court, moments before being freed on a $500,000 bail bond backed up by his New Jersey mansion.
Outside, he could not resist bringing up Sept. 11: “The worst challenges until this time were my challenges during and after 9/11. This is a battle I’m going to fight.”
The indictment charges Kerik with conspiracy, tax fraud, making false statements and depriving the city of his honest services. If convicted, he faces up to 142 years in prison and up to $4.75 million in fines.
The indictment starts in 1998, after Giuliani made Kerik correction commissioner, continues through 2000, when he named him police commissioner and ends in 2006, after Giuliani’s recommendation that Kerik run the Homeland Security Department imploded.
Prosecutors painted these broad strokes:
Theft of services: Prosecutors say Kerik tried to convince city investigators that a New Jersey contractor secretly renovating his Bronx apartment had no mob ties.
The lobbying began at a July 1999 meeting at Walker’s bar in Tribeca, when he was correction commissioner.
The city investigator, Giuliani’s cousin, Ray Casey, said later he had no clue the contractor he was probing picked up the tab for renovating Kerik’s Riverdale co-op. The payments continued after Kerik became top cop.
Later, Kerik “caused witnesses to make false statements” to investigators, the indictment charges. Kerik pleaded guilty to minor state charges of not reporting the payments on city financial disclosure forms.
While he was still police commissioner, Kerik began lining up post-city business deals and got a free upper East Side apartment for it, prosecutors say.
In October 2001, Police Commissioner Kerik approached developer Steve Witkoff, with whom he “anticipated doing business.”
Kerik “requested his assistance in locating an apartment.” The developer found Kerik a luxury apartment and made rent payments of $9,650 a month.
The indictment says the developer paid rent totaling $236,269 for Kerik from December 2001 — a month before he left city employment— through December 2003.
Tax fraud: Throughout his rise in the Giuliani administration, Kerik repeatedly lied to the IRS, including failing to declare the apartment renovations and Witkoff’s rent payments.
Prosecutors say that also was true for the $75,000 Kerik received for writing a forward in an art book on Sept. 11 heroes; $20,000 from a computer software firm and wages paid to an off-the-books nanny. He also claimed a bogus $80,000 charitable donation, the indictment charges.
False statements: Prosecutors say Kerik continued the masquerade after leaving the Giuliani administration.
He lied to the White House in 2002 through 2004 in applying for several federal positions, including director of Homeland Security.