Why is Michael Grimm Being Indicted?

Reports surfaced this afternoon that Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm will soon face criminal charges after a long federal investigation into alleged campaign finance violations. Wondering what those charges will be about? Bridge has the background on one of Grimm’s many campaign finance issues that have been subject to federal investigation.

Michael Grimm & The Rabbi Pinto Scandal

Law Enforcement Source Claimed That Grimm Threatened Orthodox Rabbi And Congregation. According to the New York Daily News, “Grimm had mentioned that he was a former FBI agent and let the rabbi know, through his interpreter and staff, that he could help the congregation, or make life tougher for them, and that he was a good person to have as a friend, not an enemy,’ a law enforcement source told Roll Call.” [New York Daily News, 03/03/12]

New York Times: Grimm Told Supporter That “There Were Ways Of Working Around The Campaign Rules.” According to the New York Times, “A second follower recalled that Mr. Grimm came to his office in Manhattan to solicit a legal contribution. As he was handing over the check, the second follower said, Mr. Grimm confided in him that there were ways of working around the campaign rules. ‘Grimm wanted you to supply the money, and if someone wants to give and cannot give, you have to find a friend to give it through,’ the second follower recalled. ‘Let’s say someone is not legal to give because he’s not American. Grimm wants this guy, Joe A, to give the money to Joe B so Joe B can make the contribution to the campaign.’” [New York Times, 01/28/12]

Rabbi’s Followers Alleged That Grimm Told Congregation Members He Could Take Illegal Donations. According the New York Times, “Three of the rabbi’s followers said in separate interviews that Mr. Grimm or Mr. Biton told them that the campaign would find a way to accept donations that were over the legal limit, were given in cash or were given by foreigners without green cards. Congressional campaigns are not allowed to accept cash donations of more than $100.” [New York Times, 01/28/12]

Ofer Biton

August, 2012: Grimm Fundraiser And Pinto Aide Ofer Biton Was Arrested On Immigration Fraud Charges. According to the Huffington Post, “An Israeli who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm during his 2010 campaign has been arrested in New York on immigration fraud charges. Businessman Ofer Biton was arraigned Friday at a federal court in Brooklyn on charges that he lied about his finances when he applied two years ago for a special visa available to foreigners who invest $500,000 or more in a U.S. business.” [Huffington Post, 8/18/12]

Some Of The Rabbi’s Followers Claimed That Biton Gave Them The Impression That Grimm Would Help Biton With His Immigration Issues If Grimm Were Elected. According to The New York Times, “Though Mr. Biton is barred from raising money for federal election campaigns because he is an illegal immigrant, he is said to have raised much of Mr. Grimm’s campaign money for that race from the rabbi’s followers and left the impression with some of them that he expected help with his visa problems in return if Mr. Grimm was elected.” [The New York Times, 8/18/12]

Bennett Orfaly

In 2006, Grimm Opened Healthalicious With Bennett Orfaly. According to The New York Times, “In 2006, when Michael G. Grimm retired from a career as an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a businessman named Bennett Orfaly helped smooth his return to civilian life. Together, they opened a small restaurant on the Upper East Side called Healthalicious that served salads, wraps and smoothies.” [The New York Times, 10/9/12]

Federal Prosecutors Allege That Orfaly Has Ties To The Gambino Family; Prosecutors Revealed This Information At A Bail Hearing For Ofer Biton On Charges Of Immigration Fraud. According to The New York Times, “Now, federal prosecutors are contending that Mr. Orfaly has ties to a member of the Gambino organized crime family, Anthony (Fat Tony) Morelli, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for racketeering and extortion in an elaborate tax fraud. The prosecutors made the accusation public at a bail hearing last month for a former campaign fund-raiser for Mr. Grimm. The fund-raiser, Ofer Biton, an Israeli, is charged with immigration fraud.” [The New York Times, 10/9/12]

Sources In Law Enforcement Alleged That Morelli Was In Charge Of The Gambino Family’s Porn Investments, Labor Racketeering And Illegal Dumping; Another Source Claimed He Ran The Family’s Florida Rackets. According to The New York Post, “Morelli’s mob assignments included overseeing the family’s investments in pornography, labor racketeering and illegal dumping, law-enforcement sources said. Late Gambino boss John Gotti put him in charge of the family’s Florida rackets, one source said.” [The New York Post, 10/8/12]

FBI Investigation

Grimm Was The Subject Of An FBI Investigation Regarding Campaign Contributions. According to ABC News obtained via Marketwire, “During the race, Grimm was the subject of an FBI investigation into allegations that his 2010 congressional campaign had accepted contributions over the legal limit and from noncitizen donors via Ofer Biton, a former aide to a prominent Israeli rabbi, in exchange for helping Biton obtain a green card.” [Marketwire, 12/31/12]

As Of December, 2012, DOJ Investigation Into Grimm Was Still Ongoing. According to Politico, “Federal investigators are looking into Grimm’s relationship with Ofer Biton, an Israeli citizen with close ties to Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto. Pinto has a large following in New York. Grimm — with Biton’s help — raised more than $500,000 from Pinto’s followers, including alleged improper cash donations or contributions from non-U.S. citizens. Biton reportedly sought help from Grimm in obtaining a green card. Biton was charged in August by the Justice Department with immigration fraud and other alleged violations. […] The House Ethics Committee, at the request of the Justice Department, has deferred its own probe of Grimm.” [Politico, 12/7/12]

House Ethics Committee Investigation

The House Ethics Committee Confirmed That It Was Investigating Grimm’s Campaign Finances But Agreed To Hold Its Inquiry While The Justice Department Conducted A Similar Investigation. According to Congressional Quarterly News, “The House Ethics Committee confirmed Monday that it is examining whether Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., broke federal campaign finance laws but said it will put its inquiry on hold while the Justice Department conducts a related probe.” [Congressional Quarterly News, 11/26/12]

  • The House Ethics Committee Announced It Would Defer It’s Investigation Of Grimm To The Justice Department Probe. According to the Staten Island Advance, “The House Ethics Committee announces later in the year that it has deferred its own investigation because of the Justice Department probe.” [Staten Island Advance, 12/30/12]