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Figure In NY Pension Fund Scandal To Plead Guilty

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Gavel (credit: CBS 2)

Gavel (credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (AP) — A longtime adviser to New York’s disgraced former comptroller, Alan Hevesi, has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge stemming from an influence peddling scandal at the state pension fund, lawyers and a judge said Thursday.

Political consultant Hank Morris was accused last year of exploiting his relationship with Hevesi to extract millions of dollars in kickbacks from financial firms seeking a role handling pension fund investments.

Morris’ attorney and prosecutors with the state attorney general’s office told a Manhattan judge Thursday that a plea bargain had been reached in the case.

The details of the deal were not made public during the brief hearing and Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone declined to consider the plea, saying it had been put before him on short notice.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment, saying it would be inappropriate to do until the plea was finalized.

A lawyer for Morris, William Schwartz, did not immediately return a phone call or respond to an e-mail.

The announcement of the deal comes one month after Hevesi himself admitted wrongdoing in the scandal. In October, he pleaded guilty to accepting expensive luxury vacations and big campaign contributions from a financier who wanted a piece of the pension fund’s massive investment portfolio.

Other figures touched by the scandal include the fund’s chief investment officer, who pleaded guilty in March to securities fraud, and a long list of big-name financial firms that acknowledged making payments to Hevesi allies in an attempt to win state investment contracts.

Prosecutors have said Morris was the biggest beneficiary of those payments, getting millions of dollars from companies that included the Quadrangle Group, then run by Obama administration auto industry czar Steven Rattner.

Hevesi, 70, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 16. His punishment could range from no jail time to up to four years in prison.

Previously, Morris had argued through his lawyers that since he was not a state official, it was not illegal for him to lobby the comptroller’s office or to receive hefty fees for his help landing deals.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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