Brooklyn Boro

Ethics panel again defers to Justice on Rep. Grimm

November 26, 2014 By Matthew Daly Associated Press
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm remains under investigation despite winning the election in November. AP Photo/Richard Drew
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WASHINGTON— Rep. Michael Grimm of New York won re-election this month, but he still faces a criminal investigation into possible campaign finance violations, as well as a 20-count indictment on tax fraud and other charges.

The House Ethics Committee said Wednesday it again is deferring an investigation of possible campaign finance violations by the Staten Island Republican, leaving the matter in the hands of the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal probe. The ethics panel also deferred action in 2012 and 2013, citing the ongoing criminal probe.

The committee said in a statement Wednesday that the Justice Department continues to investigate allegations that Grimm solicited and accepted prohibited contributions from foreign donors and improperly offered to help a foreign national obtain a green card in exchange for campaign contributions.

During his first race for Congress, in 2010, Grimm acknowledged receiving $250,000 to $300,000 in contributions from followers of an Israeli rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto. Some members of Pinto’s congregation subsequently said they made tens of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions, including gifts passed through straw donors.

The Israeli businessman who had served as Grimm’s liaison to Pinto’s followers, Ofer Biton, pleaded guilty last year to an immigration fraud charge.

The ethics complaint is separate from the indictment on tax fraud and other charges.

In that case, Grimm is accused of evading taxes by concealing more than $1 million in sales and wages while running a small Manhattan restaurant. Grimm, a former FBI agent, has called the case a political “witch hunt” meant to drive him out of office.

Grimm has stepped down from the House Financial Services Committee.

Grimm, 44, faces still another ethics probe after he was caught on camera threatening to harm a television reporter last January, following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. Grimm threatened to throw the reporter off a balcony after the reporter asked him about the FBI probe into his campaign finances. Grimm later apologized.

Despite the flurry of allegations, Grimm easily won re-election to a third term representing Staten Island and Brooklyn. Grimm won 55 percent of the vote, while his Democratic opponent won 42 percent and a third-party candidate won 3 percent.

A spokeswoman for Grimm could not immediately be reached for comment.

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