- The Albany Times Union reported on Sunday that a deal involving the purchase and sale of thoroughbreds is one part of the FBI investigation into the business dealings of New York State Senator and Majority Leader Joe Bruno. The investigation revolves around the sale of two broodmares to Bruno by Earle Mack, a former NYRA board member (appointed by Bruno), and, according to the NY Times, a a prominent Republican donor for state and national campaigns.
In New York, he gained attention in 2003 after he flew Gov. George E. Pataki and his wife to a vacation on the Caribbean island of St. Barts on his private jet.Bruno paid $50,000 for the mares, and the sale of their foals has already brought the senator $425,000. And one of the foals was purchased by none other than Mack himself.
Told of the transactions, some race horse appraisers, who know the lineage of the animals and data on their offspring, said the deal that brought the mares to Bruno does raise a red flag.Thoroughbred appraiser Jack Werk, who advised Mack on the original sale, said it was a very good deal for the senator, whom he had never heard of, and would have been fair at $75,000, perhaps more.
"It looks very suspicious," said Barry Berkleheimer, agent for Ronald Stengel, who paid $200,000 in 2006 for Sunday Whiskey. The colt, with a sire called Forest Wildcat, is one of the colts from Bruno's farm the senator sold at auction a year earlier for $150,000 to a Midwest buyers group...
"When somebody culls a mare from their breeding herd and then buys a foal at double the price, it's odd. It looks like he sold them way under value," Berkleheimer said.
[Mack's attorney Greg] Kehoe responded: 'It turned out that Bruno got a good deal." [Albany Times Union]
The subpoena list includes familiar names such as Jared Abbruzzese, the former director of Empire who, according to the paper, led the effort to raise $3 million to help fund the organization; as well as Jerry Bilinski of Excelsior.
The investigation into the broodmares is of course just one facet of the probe into Bruno's business dealings, which includes, among other things, the $500,000 in state grants awarded to Abbruzzese's Evident Technologies. And according to the Times Union, it's possible that an indictment is in the works.
The FBI has assembled a potential case against Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno using a federal law that is the Justice Department's preferred weapon in public corruption cases, according to sources briefed on the investigation.And I suppose I'm being too skeptical by wondering if Empire's well-publicized allegations against NYRA and Excelsior were timed to deflect attention from a story which, given Abbruzzese's extensive ties both to Bruno and to Empire (as well as to the latter's predecessor Friends of New York Racing), can only serve to raise questions about their Integrity, right?
That law makes it a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to deprive the public of the "honest services" of its government.
The sources, who are involved in the case but spoke on the condition they not be identified, said agents in the FBI's white-collar crime unit in Albany believe they have compiled enough evidence to propose criminal charges to the U.S. Attorney's office. The sources declined to provide details.