ALBANY — A failed City Council candidate and the former head of a Bronx day care center were indicted Wednesday on charges they cooked up a straw donor scheme to rip off the city public campaign finance system.
Albert Alvarez, who as a one-time chief of staff to then City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera, ran unsuccessfully for his boss’ seat in the 2013 Democratic primary, and Anna Mendez, the former executive director of Tremont Crotona Day Care Center, were accused of collecting straw donations, stealing public matching funds, and submitting false filings.
The charges were brought in Manhattan state Supreme Court following a joint investigation by the offices of state Attorney General Barbara Underwood and state Controller Thomas DiNapoli.
Alvarez is accused of having knowingly accepted straw donations for his campaign that were organized by Mendez and one of her employees, George Gonzalez, at the Bronx day care center where she worked.
According to the charges, Mendez and Gonzalez provided other employees at the day care center money that was then donated to Alvarez.
Mendez and Gonzalez are said to have distributed contribution cards, which the other employees were instructed to falsely make out in their own names while Alvarez watched.
The candidate then collected the money and the false contribution cards from the straw donors and submitted them to the New York City Campaign Finance Board in order to illegals receive at least $4,500 in public matching funds, the AG’s office said.
Alvarez and Mendez were each hit with seven felony counts of first-degree Offering a False Instrument for Filing a class E felony.
Alvarez was also charged with one felony count of third-degree grand larceny.
Underwood said the alleged scheme undermines “the public’s trust in our government and political process.”
“(The) indictments should send a clear message that we will not tolerate those that skirt the law for their own benefit,” Underwood said.
Mendez has since left Tremont Crotona Day Care Center and formed A&G Early Child Care Community Network.
She allegedly filed forms with the city that contained false disclosure statements pertaining to the fact she was subject of an ongoing investigation by the attorney general’s office.
As a result, she was hit with an additional three felony counts of filing a false instrument.
The initial criminal complaints were filed in February. On Wednesday, the grand jury indictments were handed up.
Alvarez and Mendez were arraigned in Manhattan state Supreme Court before Judge Max Wiley. Both pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance.
Alvarez lawyer Jerry Goldfeder had no comment.