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Aide to assistant speaker of NYS Assembly arrested in theft

August 8, 2019

NEW YORK (AP) — An aide and one-time chief of staff to New York State Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz was arrested Thursday on a wire fraud charge, accused of diverting $80,000 from campaign contributions for his personal use.

Maruf “Mitu” Alam, 29, of Brooklyn, was released on $100,000 bail after an appearance in Brooklyn federal court, where he was charged in a criminal complaint with stealing the money in cash from a campaign account between January 2012 and April 2018.

A lawyer for Alam did not respond to a request for comment.

U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a release that Alam was “caught red-handed” using Ortiz’s campaign account “as his personal piggy bank.”

William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York City’s FBI office, said Alam “went to great lengths to conceal his fraud, including traveling to China to illicitly withdraw funds from a campaign account and then filing false disclosure reports with the New York State Board of Elections.”

Ortiz, a Democrat, said in a statement that he had just learned of the arrest and could not yet comment.

According to the criminal complaint, Alam diverted the money from a campaign committee account set up to support Ortiz. The court papers said he had served in various roles for Ortiz, including as chief of staff.

The account received over $60,000 in contributions but had more than $50,000 in expenditures from January 2014 to December 2017, authorities said. Among the expenses, the complaint said, were substantial cash withdrawals, including two in China during a period when in 2015 when Alam was in China.

The complaint said a review of Alam’s personal checking account revealed that he regularly made large cash deposits into his account that appeared inconsistent with his earnings as a New York state employee. Investigators noted that his annual salary from 2013 through 2018 ranged from $21,431 in 2013, when he worked part time, to $48,388 in 2018, when he worked full time.

The complaint said FBI agents who interviewed Ortiz in March were told that Alam acted as the “treasurer” for two campaign accounts and that Ortiz had not authorized Alam or anyone else to withdraw $80,000 in cash.

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Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed to this report from Albany, New York.

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