TPM’s Ultimate Kerik Scandal List!

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November 9, 2007 5:38 p.m.

No rundown of Bernard Kerik’s ethical shortcomings could ever hope to be comprehensive, but we’ve done our best. So here, without any further ado, is our grand catalogue. Thanks to TPMm research hounds Adrianne Jeffries, Will Thomas and Peter Sheehy and TPMm readers for all the help.

In today’s indictment:

Bribery. Accepted $255,000 worth of renovations to his apartment in an upscale section of the Bronx from a mob-connected construction company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, that sought his help in winning city contracts. Kerik was Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections at the time. He already admitted to charges from city prosecutors that the payments constituted an illegal gift.

Tax fraud. Kerik failed to report $236,269 in rent for his Upper East Side apartment where he lived from December 2001 to December 2003 with his family. One of the city’s biggest real estate developers, Steve Witkoff, paid the $9,650 in monthly rent. Kerik asked for Witkoff’s help with the apartment while he was still police commissioner of NYC, and the real estate mogul made the payments because the two “anticipated doing business in the future.”

More tax fraud. Kerik also failed to disclose $20,000 in consulting fees from a computer software company and $75,953 in royalties for writing his autobiography.

Even more tax fraud. Kerik failed to report wages paid to his nanny (more about that below), claimed $80,000 in phony charitable contributions, and falsely claimed a home office deduction for a home he had not moved into yet.

False statements. Lied on application for head of Department of Homeland Security about the nanny, payments from the construction company, and other things he preferred to keep quiet.

From before Kerik’s time in city government:

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Deported from Saudi Arabia. In 1982, Kerik was hired to provide security for a Saudi Arabian hospital. Nine former hospital employees have argued that Kerik acted as enforcer for his employer, Nizar Feteih, who used the security team to keep an eye on a handful of female hospital employees, as well as the men with whom they were in contact. Kerik is accused of inappropriate surveillance, including wiretapping staff members.

Kerik declared one doctor disliked by Feteih as drunk and had him arrested (and later deported) under Saudi law. The outrage prompted an investigation by the Ministry of Health, which determined that many allegations of security abuse against Kerik were accurate. Kerik was fired over the incident and deported.

Kerik’s many, many ethical shortcomings while working first as New York City corrections commissioner and then police commissioner:

Bringing Tammany to Rikers. Kerik was named in a 1999 civil suit alleging that correctional officers were coerced into supporting Mayor Giuliania’s campaign efforts and that those who refused or privately supported Democrats were punished or run out of their jobs. The case, which was eventually settled, was brought by a Democratic warden who claimed that Kerik threatened to “hunt down” anyone who was “disloyal.”

Gifts from mob-tied buddy. Interstate, that mob-connected construction company hired the best man at Mr. Kerik’s wedding, his good friend Lawrence Ray, on Kerik’s recommendation in late 1998. Ray, who has mob ties, said he gave Kerik $7,000 worth of cash and other gifts while Mr. Kerik was commissioner of correction and the police. Ray was indicted in 2000, alongside Edward Garafola (brother-in-law to mob underboss Sammy “The Bull” Gravano) of a $40 million market manipulation scheme of penny stocks.

9/11 love nest. Kerik used a downtown Manhattan apartment, originally donated for the use of weary police and rescue workers who were helping at Ground Zero, for extramarital trysts with celebrity book editor Judith Regan and Jeanette Pinero, a city correction officer with whom Kerik carried on a long-time affair. (Things went sour when Pinero found a love note that Regan had left for Kerik.)

Retaliation against city employees for crossing his mistress. A Correction Department officer claimed in a lawsuit that he was repeatedly passed over for promotion because Kerik’s lover, Correction Officer Jeanette Pinero, accused him of harassment. A Manhattan federal judge ruled in April 2007 that there was not enough evidence to support Deputy Warden Eric DeRavin’s case. DeRavin said Kerik passed him over for promotion six times from 1998 to 2000. He eventually was promoted in May 2000 and retired early the following year. Kerik admitted he had a romantic relationship with Pinero that began in the fall of 1995 and lasted through early 1997, a year before he was named the correction chief in 1998, although he said he and Pinero remained friends through December 2001.

In another lawsuit, the city paid $250,000 to Herbert Reed, a 16-year veteran who claimed that the department filed bogus disciplinary and sexual harassment actions against him after he wrote up a friend of Pinero’s for insubordination.

Using homicide detectives to find his other mistress’s lost cell phone. Kerik sent two homicide detectives to investigate the disappearance of Judith Regan’s cell phone and necklace. The items Regan said were stolen were later discovered with no indications of theft — jewelry was later found at the bottom of Regan’s handbag, a credit card was later found to have been left behind at a pharmacy, and the missing phone was later found in a garbage can in a TV studio where Regan had been.

Used city detectives as researchers for his book. Kerik was fined $2,500 by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board in 2002 for using a police sergeant and two detectives to research his autobiography.

Shirked condo fees until a warrant was issued for his arrest. In 1998, Kerik was sued for failing to pay about $5,000 in maintenance fees on a condo he owned in New Jersey. When Kerik failed to respond to a subpoena, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest. A Kerik spokesman later said Kerik paid the fees and the warrant was withdrawn, but the existence of the warrant was news to the White House and Kerik’s handlers.

Ran prison cigarette slush fund. For five years under Kerik, the city’s Correction Department operated a charity foundation that took in and spent some $1 million in rebates from tobacco companies on cigarettes bought with taxpayer dollars and sold to Rikers Island inmates, which allowed the money to be spent outside rules that govern public expenditures.The rebates had gone into city coffers until Kerik became president of the foundation in 1995.

Kerik failed to list his position as the foundation’s president in financial disclosure forms he filed and deferred questions about it to its treasurer, Frederick Patrick, also a deputy police commissioner, who eventually pleaded guilty to stealing $137,733 from the foundation and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison.

The nanny. In 2002 and 2003, Kerik failed to pay taxes for a family nanny-housekeeper who might have been in the country illegally. She returned to Mexico. The Kerik family employed the nanny for about a year, until his personal finances were reviewed after his nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security.

And after that:

Brush with corporate scandal. During Kerik’s tenure the Corrections Center bought multiple security doors from the company Georal (at a cost of $50,000 per door). The purchase was controversial; the doors were poorly sized, expensive, difficult to maintain, and many have never been used.

In 2003, Kerik was invited to join the board of Defense Technologies Systems; his advisory role granted him a commission on sales and a large number of stock options in penny stock. The next year, DTS earned the rights to sell Georal’s product, based on Kerik’s introduction.

As Kerik’s nomination looked likely in 2004, he returned his options to DTS. It is not clear whether he did so because of the recent scandal with Georgal, or to avoid scrutiny of his complicated financial relationship with the companies, given that his close associate Lawrence Ray had pleaded guilty two years prior to running penny stock pump-and-dump schemes for the mafia.

Another brush with corporate scandal. In 2004, Kerik was nominated to the board of Taser, giving him access to a large number of share options. On October 18th, 2004, selections of a government report studying the health risks of Taser’s stunners was released; it found that the technology was “generally effective without significant risk.” The company’s stock skyrocketed, and Kerik exercised his options and realized a profit of more than $4.4 million. On November 26th, The New York Times questioned the validity of the government’s report; only after the board sold shares worth $90 million was it discovered that the full report suggested there was “uncertainty in the results” of the tests.

Sued for legal fees. Kerik retained law firm Fulbright & Jaworski after his nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security was squashed and authorities began investigating his ties to Interstate, the mob-connected construction company. In October 2007, the law firm filed a lawsuit, claiming that Kerik has failed to pay $202,384 in legal fees.

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