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Queens District Leader Charged With Campaign Finance Fraud

 District Leader Albert Baldeo is accused of using straw donors to take in illegal campaign funds.
District Leader Albert Baldeo is accused of using straw donors to take in illegal campaign funds.
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QUEENS — A politician with dreams of becoming a city councilman was charged Wednesday with campaign finance fraud and obstructing justice, federal officials said.

Democratic District Leader Albert Baldeo, who represents Richmond Hill, is accused of using straw donors during his unsuccessful 2010 campaign in order to increase the amount of matching city funds he was eligible to receive, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Baldeo, 52, is campaigning for the seat again this year, in a race that includes Nicole Paultre Bell, fiancé of Sean Bell, the victim of a 2006 police shooting.

"Albert Baldeo was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "Baldeo even allegedly used fear and intimidation to prevent others from exposing his conduct."

Baldeo instructed straw donors to sign contribution cards signifying they would donate a specific amount to his campaign, but he supplied the money, prosecutors said.

In total, Baldeo is accused of seeking matching funds for $15,000 in phony donations, which would have netted him $90,000, according to Bharara's office.

Baldeo told the straw donors to tell FBI investigators the money came from them, pressuring some with claims they could get in trouble if they told the truth, prosecutors said.

When one straw donor refused to cooperate, Baldeo and an associate are suspected of faxing a threatening letter to the donor's attorney, falsely reporting the man to the city for abusing his grandson and complaining to the buildings department about a property the man owned, according to Bharara's office.

Baldeo, who faces up to 80 years in prison if convicted, denied the allegations to the New York Post Wednesday.

"The city didn't contact me, so I don't have a response," Baldeo told the paper. "The other candidates are trying to smear me with mud."