STATEN ISLAND — A candidate vying for Congressman Michael Grimm's seat called on him to return $500,000 after a top fundraiser for Grimm was arrested.
Democratic candidate Mark Murphy said on Monday that Grimm should return the donations raised by Ofer Biton in 2009, who was arrested on immigration-fraud charges on Friday.
"It’s clear the $500,000 was obtained by illegal means, and should be returned," Murphy said in a statement. "So I call on Michael Grimm to return those campaign funds immediately."
During his 2009 campaign, Grimm traveled around the New York region with Biton and raised $500,000 from followers rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, whom he used to work for.
Followers of the rabbi said that Grimm or Biton told them that they would find ways to accept donations over the legal campaign limit, were given in cash or by immigrants without green cards, the New York Times reported.
Congressional campaigns cannot accept cash donations more than $100 or money from foreigners without green cards.
"After months of dodging, it’s time for Grimm to address the seriousness of this federal investigation and stop pretending that the questions will disappear," Murphy said.
Biton, an Israeli citizen, was arrested on Friday for allegedly deceiving the government on the source of $500,000 seed money from a business, making him and his family eligible for a permanent visa, the Times reported.
Biton's connection to Grimm was not mentioned in the complaint.
Grimm said that Murphy, who had a brief acting career in California, was simply slinging mud at his campaign and has not addressed issues important to Staten Island and Brooklyn voters.
"After spending 18 of the last 20 years in Hollywood, CA failing as an actor, one would think that my opponent would give up the theatrics and that is exactly what his stunt was today: him acting the fool," Grimm said in a statement.
"He has held multiple press conferences now all focused on slinging mud at my character and reputation, but never once has he offered a single original idea about what matters to the hard working people of Staten Island and Brooklyn," Grimm said.
Grimm added that the immigration-fraud charges against Biton have nothing to do with him.
"With regard to the media frenzy surrounding Ofer Biton's arrest, Mr. Biton’s immigration matter has nothing whatsoever to do with me," he said.
But Grimm is no stranger to media frenzy.
This week it was discovered that the former FBI agent was part of the House Republicans' trip last year, where Rep. Kevin Yoder took off his pants and jumped into the Sea of Galilee after a night of drinking, Politico reported.
However, the FBI agents weren't interested in the booze-filled swim, but Grimm's failure to file paperwork on his trip to Cyprus, which had been paid for by the Cyprus Federation of America, Talking Points Memo reported.
Murphy said that Grimm's scandals keep popping up, calling into question his ability to lead.
"The scandals and unanswered questions continue to grow, while his willingness to tell the truth continues to shrink," he said.