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Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm pleads not guilty to federal fraud charges

NEW YORK (AP/PIX11) — A New York City congressman pleaded not guilty Monday to a 20-count federal indictment, including charges of tax fraud and hiring undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Michael Grimm surrendered and was booked at the New York FBI office in lower Manhattan Monday morning, authorities said. He will be released on $400,000 bond.

The Staten Island Republican was charged with engaging in schemes to underreport wages for restaurant workers, including some who were in the country illegally. He’s accused of concealing more than $1 million in sales and wages.

Authorities say that when he was deposed by an attorney representing former employees in a lawsuit, Grimm lied under oath about his allegedly fraudulent business practices.

Grimm said the investigation against him was “a political witch hunt … to assassinate my character and remove me from office.” Speaking Monday after he was arraigned on 20 charges in federal court in Brooklyn, Grimm told reporters that he felt “somewhat relieved” after the probe of more than two years, because “today at least I get to face my accusers.”

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Rep. Michael Grimm (Photo: Getty Images)

Authorities allege the fraud occurred from 2007 to 2010. Grimm, who’s also a former FBI agent, was elected in 2010 and took office in 2011.

When the indictment was unsealed Monday, the agency’s assistant director had harsh words for the lawmaker.

“As a former FBI agent, Representative Grimm should understand the motto: fidelity, bravery, and integrity.  Yet he broke our credo at nearly every turn. In this twenty-count indictment, Representative Grimm lived by a new motto: fraud, perjury, and obstruction. We demand the best from our political leaders,” George Venizelos said.

“Yet today, we again find ourselves expecting and rightfully wanting more. And as citizens of this great nation we rightfully demand it.”

The House Ethics Committee announced in November that Grimm was under investigation for possible campaign finance violations. That committee said it would defer its inquiry because of a separate Department of Justice investigation.

A former FBI special agent and Marine, Grimm represents New York’s 11th District, which includes Staten Island and portions of southwest Brooklyn.

The same day Grimm’s attorney announced criminal charges against the lawmaker were pending, a Texas woman who has been romantically involved with Grimm was indicted in New York on charges of making illegal campaign contributions.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn unsealed the indictment against Diana Durand on Friday.

The indictment said she caused more than $10,000 in donations to be made in the names of other people between November 2009 and October 2010. It says she lied in June 2012 when she told the FBI she didn’t reimburse straw donors for their contributions to Grimm’s campaign.

Durand’s attorney Stuart Kaplan said his client and Grimm became friends before he ran for office. He said she’ll plead not guilty.



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