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Pedro Espada and Son Respond to Attorney General’s Latest Lawsuit

Sen. Pedro Espada gives a thumbs up while posing next to his son Pedro G. Espada. (Photo: Facebook.com)

Sen. Pedro Espada gives a thumbs up while posing next to his son, Pedro G. Espada. (Photo: Facebook.com)

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed another lawsuit against state Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada and his son, Pedro G. Espada, charging them with “creating a sham job training program that cheated workers and shortchanged state coffers.” This lawsuit is the second filed against the elder Espada by the attorney general in just over a week. On April 20, Cuomo charged Espada with using a Bronx-based non-profit health care company as his own “personal piggybank.” Espada responded to Cuomo’s latest attack against him by challenging the attorney general to a debate.

Cuomo’s suit accuses the Espadas of using a for-profit management company to “siphon” taxpayer money from the Soundview health clinic. Soundview awarded Espada Management Co., which is run by Pedro G. Espada, a nearly $400,000 annual contract to do janitorial work. According to Cuomo, workers from Espada Management Co. were “mischaracterized … as trainees” and “paid a fraction of the wages mandated by law.” Cuomo said some of the janitors employed by Espada Management Co. made “less than $70 per week, or the equivalent of under $1.70 per hour.” The attorney general said this arrangement allowed the Espadas to “minimize costs and maximize profits at Espada Management.”

Thursday afternoon, Senator Espada posted a status update to his Facebook page inviting Cuomo to “debate his baseless allegations at any forum.”

Pedro G. Espada also took to Facebook Thursday to discuss the attorney general’s suit. The younger Espada posted an update of his own this afternoon saying that he “just gave my first and only interview to NY 1.” Soon after, when someone posted a comment asking what was said in the interview, Pedro G. Espada wrote that he told the television station, “The truth and nothing but the truth so help me GOD.” As of this writing, both Espadas and the attorney general’s office have not responded to requests to comment on this story.

On Thursday afternoon at the Soundview Health Center on White Plains Road, children gathered for an anti-obesity event where they displayed mounds of sugar and dramatically poured out hundreds of soda cans.

“This is heartbreaking,” cried a tall sixth-grader clutching a can of orange soda. “They told us not to open it, but I really want to drink one,” said another.

The youngsters’ reluctance to pour the soft drinks into a storm drain in the clinic’s parking lot mirrored the hesitation of the adults to comment on the Espada scandal.

Inside, the waiting room was packed with patients. David Collymore, medical director of the Soundview Healthcare Network, sat in his small office surrounded by papers. On the wall hung a plaque from Senator Espada honoring Collymore for his dedication to quality health care for the local community. Collymore said the day’s anti-obesity event was “a clear indication that we will not let the negative press of the past week prevent the hospital or its staff from serving its patients.” When asked if he thought Espada’s business practices were draining resources from the Soundview health programs, Collymore said, “absolutely not.”

Additional reporting by Astrid Baez.

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For Pedro Espada, Accusations Swirl as Patients Wait and Watch

In the days since the New York attorney general filed a lawsuit charging State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, Jr. with using a Bronx healthcare organization as his own “personal piggybank,” the senator’s son defended their family as details emerged about Espada’s expensive sushi habit and accusations that the senator doesn’t live in the Bronx district he supposedly represents.

See what patients at one of the Soundview clinics had to say:

Attorney general Andrew Cuomo’s lawsuit charges Espada with “siphoning” $14 million from Comprehensive Community Development Corporation, also known as “Soundview,” a company that provides low cost health care services to patients in the Bronx from five locations. Espada founded the company in 1978. He is currently Soundview’s president and chief executive officer.

Nineteen current and former Soundview employees are also named in the lawsuit including seven of Espada’s family members. Cuomo’s lawsuit alleges Espada and his relatives received vacations and lavish compensation packages through Soundview. The senator’s contract with the company included a $9 million severance bonus. Espada is also accused of using his corporate credit card for campaign expenses and personal expenses including $20,000 bills at two sushi restaurants.

Espada was elected to represent the 33rd District in 2008. In order to serve in the Senate, he is required to live within the district. Espada’s benefits at Soundview included $2,500 monthly housing allowance for a co-op apartment at 325 E 201st St. in the Bronx. During the two years Espada has maintained his apartment in Bedford Park, various residents of the building have spoken to news outlets claiming he does not live there. In the past, Espada’s response to these allegations has been that he divides his time between his home in the Bronx and his office in Albany.

Espada is also listed in the public phone directory as a resident of 115 Beechwood Road, a leafy cul-de-sac in Mamaroneck, with his wife, Connie, and their children. The home is located near the two sushi restaurants, Toyo Sushi and Red Plum, where Espada allegedly used his Soundview credit card to purchase meals. Peter Chen, the owner of both restaurants, said the Espadas visited Red Plum “probably once a week” and ordered takeout from Toyo Sushi “three or four times a month.” Though he said he couldn’t recall if they had a favorite dish, Chen said the Espadas were “average tippers.”

In 2004, Sandra Love and three other Soundview officials plead guilty to charges that they diverted money from Soundview to Espada’s political campaign. Espada and Love were previously acquitted on similar charges in 2000. According to Cuomo’s lawsuit, all four Soundview staffers who were convicted of criminal charges were retained by the company and two of them were named to the company’s Compliance Committee. Love’s son, Jerry Love Jr., was hired by Espada in 2009. Love Jr. is named in the current lawsuit.

Records show that the senator’s political action committee, Espada for the People, paid $1,265.82 to Soundview in December 2007. The senator did not respond to messages left at his offices in Albany and East Fordham Road as well as calls made to his addresses in the Bronx and Mamaroneck asking for an explanation of these charges to Soundview and the attorney general’s allegations of misconduct. An intern at Espada’s Bainbridge office said he had “no idea” where the senator was and that he last saw him in Bainbridge “a couple weeks ago.”

But Espada did appear on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” show on Thursday to defend himself against the charges. He said there was no intention for him to receive the $9 million severance bonus and that the case was “politically motivated.” Espada stated he has no plans to resign from the senate while he fights the lawsuit. On Friday morning, he continued his counter attack on MyFoxNY.com. “This is a witch hunt by the prince of darkness himself,” he said, referring to Cuomo.

Lourdes Espada, the senator’s daughter-in-law, is also named in the attorney general’s suit although her husband, Pedro Gautier Espada, is not named. One of the allegations against the senator is that Soundview awarded a $400,000 yearly janitorial contract to a management company run by his son. On Wednesday night, Gautier Espada posted a message on his Facebook profile that said: “Who ever thinks that the liberties and freedoms we enjoy as Americans are free has never paid and must walk through life with blinders on. The truth is, those principles that our union uses as it’s foundation are very expensive. They have been paid for in blood. sacrifice, sweat and tears. Today I keep my head up knowing that someway I have paid a small price in maintaining the very principles of our existence.”

The note has since been deleted. Gautier Espada has not responded by e-mail requests seeking further comment on this story.

*The 33rd District includes the neighborhoods of Kingsbridge, Kingsbridge Heights, Bedford Park, Van Cortlandt Village, University Heights, Fordham, Tremont, East Tremont, Norwood and Mount Hope.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Health, Multimedia, PoliticsComments (3)