Ex-correction union boss Norman Seabrook wasn’t properly supervised and showered execs with ‘luxury gifts,’ suit says
Correction union execs weren’t keeping an eye on now-indicted ex-president Norman Seabrook when he invested pension money in a “Ponzi scheme” – because he had long showered them with gifts such as cars, a new lawsuit alleges.
The feds have alleged Murray Huberfeld, who ran an investment firm called Platinum Partners, agreed to give Seabrook a kickback in late 2013 — so he would invest union money in one of its high-risk funds.
Seabrook dumped some $20 million of Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association money into Platinum Partners in 2014.
That December, Seabrook received a $60,000 cash kickback in an $800 Ferragamo bag and became “angry,” griping it wasn’t enough, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has alleged.
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Sources previously told the Daily News that the middleman who delivered the money to Seabrook was Jona Rechnitz, a major donor to de Blasio’s mayoral bid and the now-shuttered Campaign for One New York.
Platinum Partners has since declared bankruptcy, however – making COBA’s investments in the fund “virtually worthless,” according to the Manhattan federal court lawsuit, filed by Jeffrey Norton, of Newman Ferrara, and Philip Seelig. Seelig was COBA president from 1979 to 1992.
Seabrook got away with investing in Platinum — without COBA’s executive board knowing or approving the investment — because execs “had, for years, failed to supervise Seabrook in any meaningful way,” the suit charges.
“Indeed, Seabrook had ensured the Executive Board’s quiescence through liberal dispensations of gift cards, cars, and plush job assignments away from Rikers Island, which ensured they exercised no due diligence over Seabrook’s activities,” court papers say.
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The suit also slams COBA’s law firm, Koehler & Isaacs LLP, as being “more loyal to Seabrook than to COBA” — and distracting union leadership — to protect its business interests.
“Although Koehler & Isaacs knew that Seabrook had made the high stakes investment, its contract with COBA could be imperiled if Koehler & Isaacs made any representations that called into question Seabrook’s activities,” court papers say.
“Accordingly, Koehler & Isaacs neither advised nor warned the Executive Board about the investment.
“Instead, Koehler & Isaacs helped Seabrook co-opt the Executive Board by providing the members with GPS devices and other luxury gifts,” the suit says.
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COBA President Elias Husamudeen said in a statement to The News that the filing is “yet another frivolous suit” brought by those who have an axe to grind with the union.
“The fact of the matter is that no matter how many lawsuits are brought against our union, we remain focused on representing and fighting for our members, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Husamudeen said.
Koehler & Isaacs also shot back at the suit, calling the allegations “salacious” and misleading.
“The facts will show that Koehler & Isaacs, along with COBA’s financial advisors, performed a thorough and diligent vetting of the union’s investment in Platinum Partners, which at the time of the investment, produced among the highest returns for investors in the hedge fund industry,” the firm said in a statement.
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