Source: FArepublicans via Flickr
Congressman Michael Grimm’s financial standing continues to come under scrutiny. After the allegations of his dealings with controversial Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto came to light and his fundraiser Ofer Biton’s arrest for immigration fraud, Grimm has to deal with another financial scandal. This time, the accusations state that Grimm accepted money from several individuals involved in the porn industry.
Last week, the Associated Press reported and TPMMuckracker summarized the following:
One of the rabbi’s closest aides, Benzion Suky, owned a company that distributed porn videos and has settled lawsuits by adult film studios who accused him of selling bootlegged DVDs, according to court records. Suky and his wife gave a combined $9,600 to Grimm’s 2010 campaign and a real estate partnership that lists Suky as its managing member gave $4,800, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Another big donor was Rafi Maman, proprietor of companies in North Bergen, N.J., that distribute adult films and sex toys. He also has settled lawsuits accusing him of bootlegging, including two which also named Suky as a defendant. Maman, his wife and a real estate partnership that he listed as his employer gave $19,200 to Grimm’s campaign. That total includes $7,200 in individual contributions from Maman, or $2,400 more than is allowed by law.
A third Grimm contributor, Eli Halali, is listed in business records as the agent of another company that distributed pornographic movies. His name also appears on at least one such video, “Blonde & Beautiful Vol. 1,” as the keeper of records verifying that the film’s performers were over age 18. He gave $4,800. Two apparent relatives, Bluria Halali and Jaclyn Halali, each contributed $4,800.
The FBI has been looking at Grimm’s fundraising since at least January, when a New York Times story spotlighted the role that an Israeli named Ofer Biton, an aide to Pinto, played in Grimm’s campaign. Members of Pinto’s congregation told the Times that either Grimm or Biton said they could find ways to accept donations that surpassed legal limits or came from foreigners. Several people who worked on Grimm’s campaign have been questioned by the FBI, according to reports, and just a few weeks ago TPM reported that the bureau was looking into the Staten Island lawmaker’s failure to file paperwork related to an overseas trip to Cyprus. Biton, meanwhile, was arrested by the FBI last month, in a case apparently unrelated to his fundraising efforts for Grimm, for lying on immigration documents.
Grimm, a former FBI agent, has acknowledged receiving between $250,000 to $300,000 from Pinto’s supporters but has denied knowledge of any wrongdoing.
Since Biton’s legal troubles emerged, his lawyer has come forward to say that his arrest is the direct result of his link to Grimm and the investigation into campaign finances.
“This case is politically motivated,” said lawyer John Meringolo, to the New York Times.
Meringolo also stated that he believes Grimm has not done anything wrong either, “They say he [Biton] has ties to Michael Grimm. I haven’t seen any evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing of Michael Grimm.”
United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York Robert spokesperson Nardoza, stated that there is nothing political about it.
“The case,” he said, “is motivated by the evidence.”
Biton has not been charged with money laundering thus far, but immigration fraud. As for Grimm, his connection to Biton’s current case has not been confirmed and his links to the porno industry have not come out as a legal issue thus far.