Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Indicted Murgio quits school board

- By Kate Jacobson and Brittany Shammas Staff writers

Palm Beach County School Board member Mike Murgio resigned Friday after a federal indictment accusing him of bribery.

His departure creates a vacancy on the seven-person board. His District 1 seat was up for re-election. Before his arrest, Murgio planned to run as an incumbent.

Instead, in a letter sent to School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw, Murgio wrote he was stepping down because his “personal situation” may create a distractio­n for the board and the school district.

“I remain committed to our community and the education of our children and I am hopeful that in the near future I will be able to dedicate my time and energy once again to the children, the Palm Beach County School Board and the

community it serves,” he wrote.

Murgio, 65, is accused of bribing the chairman of a New Jersey-based credit union to help hide money made illegal ly by a bit coin transferri­ng business called Coin.mx. Bitcoins are an electronic form of currency

His lawyer, Stuart Kaplan, said Murgio maintains his innocence.

His seat could sit vacant until November, or it could be filled with an appointmen­t from the governor, whose office is reviewing the situation. A governor’s appointee would have to run in the election to keep the seat beyond November.

A representa­tive from Gov. Rick Scott’s office confirmed they received Murgio’s resignatio­n letter but have not determined a course of action.

Rita Solnet, president of Parents Across Florida, is urging the governor to leave the issue to voters.

“Governor Scott recently said he wanted Florida voters to decide the GOP presidenti­al candidate,” she said in an email. “I hope he holds true to this principle with regards to a vacant school board seat. We are roughly 15 weeks away from a primary election. We should let PBC voters decide who they want to represent them as school board member.”

One person is already seeking the seat, which represents northern county schools. Ellen Baker, a special education teacher at William T. Dwyer High and former union vice president, filed paperwork to run last week.

The deadline to file is June 24, and Andrea Messina, executive vice president of the Florida School Boards Associatio­n, said she expects others will now enter the race.

Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Associatio­n President Kathi Gundlach said she didn’t expect Murgio’s departure to have a significan­t impact on the board. That’s because the board’s votes are not typically close — they are often unanimous or 6-1.

Murgio, a lifelong educator who served as a teacher, school principal and administra­tor, faces charges of conspiracy to make corrupt payments with intent to influence an officer of a financial institutio­n and making corrupt payments.

His son Anthony, 31, who is accused of running Coin.mx, was indicted in July on multiple charges, including federal money laundering.

New York prosecutor­s say Murgio helped bribe the chairman of a New Jerseybase­d credit union. He and his son, along with Yuri Lebedev, wanted to gain control of the credit union in 2014 as part of the ongoing money-laundering scheme, authoritie­s said.

According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, Anthony Murgio and Lebedev knew the money they were taking from their clients was obtained through illegal means. Authoritie­s also allege the two knew they were supposed to register their business with the federal government, but never did.

Federal authoritie­s said Anthony Murgio tried to hide the nature of his business and the source of his funds.

Part of that cover-up included bribing Trevon Gross — who is also named in the indictment — to get control of the Helping Other People Excel Federal Credit Union in New Jersey, according to the indictment. The credit union was originally designed for low-income clients, officials said.

Both Anthony and Mike Murgio are accused of bribing Gross, the chairman of the board of directors for the credit union, to obtain positions on the board.

Authoritie­s said Gross accepted the bribes and members of the company were placed onto the board, though they do not say explicitly who. All of the bribes amounted to $150,000, officials said.

Mike Murgio was released from custody Thursday on $250,000 bond, court records show. He entered a not guilty plea and is scheduled to appear in a New York court in May.

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