YONKERS, N.Y. Former Yonkers City Council member Sandy Annabi and former head of the Yonkers Republican Party Zehy Jereis were found guilty on all corruptions counts after a seven-week trial and five days of jury deliberation.
Todays convictions of Sandy Annabi and Zehy Jereis on all counts are a victory for the citizens of Yonkers who, like all Americans, deserve fair and honest government and not government driven by bribes and riven with backroom deals, said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, prosecutor for the federal trial that was held in Manhattan.
Annabi, 41, was found guilty of all 10 charges and Jereis, 40, was found guilty of all five. The pair was convicted of two conspiracy charges, one corruption charge and an extortion charge. In addition, Annabi was convicted of one additional corruption charge, three counts of making a false statement to a bank and two counts of filing false tax returns. Jereis was charged with one additional charge of making corrupt payments.
The charges stem from nearly $200,000 in secret payments Bharara said Annabi received during her time as a city council member from Jereis in exchange for her favorable votes on two real estate developments, the Longfellow Project and the Ridge Hill Development.
Annabi was elected as the Yonkers City Council representative for District 2 in 2001 and was reelected in 2003 and 2005. In 2003, her cousin Jereis became Yonkers Republican Party Chairperson.
In 2003, Milio Management introduced a project to the Yonkers City Council to develop land known as the Longfellow Project, located partially in Annabis district. In a release, prosecutors said Annabi proclaimed her strong opposition to the project in a June 14, 2005 council meeting, saying, Even if the entire community supported (it), I would be opposed. She also said that the project was outrageous and a slap in the face to the taxpayers of Yonkers. According to prosecutors, Milio Management was unable to sway Annabis vote repeated attempts.
In April 2006, Milio Management hired Hawthorne attorney Anthony Mangone to help persuade Annabi. Mangone arranged a meeting between a representative of Milio Management and Jereis, who said he could help persuade Annabi to support the project.
In a release from prosecutors, Mangone said in order for the project to proceed, Milio Management would need to make a $30,000 exchange to gain her support. In the summer of 2006, Milio Management gave Mangone $30,000 in cash for Annabi, $20,000 of which was given to Jereis to give to Annabi. That September, prosecutors said, Annabi changed her vote, approved the Longfellow Project and bought a Rolex, a diamond necklace and airline ticket upgrades, prosecutors said.
Mangone was charged along with Jereis and Annabi in January 2010, but pled guilty to conspiracy, bribery, extortion and tax evasion charges in November of the same year. Mangone testified against Annabi and Jereis at the trial.
The Ridge Hill Development was a proposed $800 million project in which an 81-acre parcel of land would developed into retail, restaurant, office space and hundreds of residential housing units. Annabi initially announced her opposition to the project, voted against it and the zoning change needed to construct it, and even became a member of a civil suit blocking the development.
After Jereis was introduced to representatives of Forest City Ratner, developers for Ridge Hill, Jereis said he could arrange a meeting with Annabi. He also arranged to be hired as a consultant at $60,000 a year once the council member formally voted on the proposal.
After two meetings held five days apart, Annabi issued a press release on June 15, 2006, drafted by Jereis and representatives of Forest City Ratner, proclaiming her support for the project. On July 11, 2006, she approved the project and the legislation needed to alter zoning laws for its construction.
Around the same time, Annabi submitted two applications to two different banks, seeking financing for the two homes, both of which, prosecutors said, she claimed she would live in, telling neither bank she was seeking a loan from the other. Prosecutors said bank documents included false W-2s, pay stubs and bank statements.
Annabi received payments from Jereis to finance the purchase of two houses and one co-op apartment within her district, to meet residency requirements for her council member position. Jereis paid the mortgage and down payments on the co-op and helped finance the purchase of the two homes with what he called loans. Annabi failed to report the additional income on federal tax returns, according to prosecutors.
Annabi faces a maximum sentence of 161 years in prison and Jereis faces up to 65 years in prison, prosecutors said. A sentencing date for the two has not been set.
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