Six People Charged with Organizing Illegal Donations for the Adams 2021 Campaign

Four construction industry executives, a retired police inspector and a bookkeeper equipped with sophisticated knowledge of campaign finance law were indicted Friday for conspiring to funnel illegal donations to Mayor Eric Adams' 2021 campaign.

The 27-count indictment accused the defendants of trying to hide the source of the thousands of dollars in donations by making them on behalf of colleagues and relatives, and said the group had sought influence and possibly city contracts. The indictment does not accuse Mr Adams' campaign or the mayor himself of any wrongdoing, and there is nothing to suggest he was aware of the scheme.

The district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, said in a statement that the defendants had set up “a deliberate scheme to game the system in a blatant attempt to gain power.”

Prosecutors identified the defendants as Dwayne Montgomery, Shamsuddin Riza, Millicent Redick, Ronald Peek, Yahya Mushtaq and Shahid Mushtaq.

The indictment describes the Yahya brothers and Shahid Mushtaq as principals at a construction company called EcoSafety Consultants, who are also charged in the indictment. Pak Riza, the head of the other construction company separated charged Friday, also working with EcoSafety, said the prosecutor's office.

EcoSafety has been a city subcontractor since April 2021, according to records maintained by the Office of the New York City Superintendent. During that time, the city has paid him $470,000.

Mr. Montgomery, a retired police inspector, is related by marriage to Mr. Riza, for whom Ms. Redick works as an accountant. Mr. Peek works for another construction security company.

Scott Grauman, attorney for Shahid Mushtaq and who also represents EcoSafety, noted that his client entered a not guilty plea Friday morning, adding: “We will vigorously defend ourselves against the allegations.”

Alexei Grosshtern, a lawyer for Ms. Redick, the bookkeeper, said he only knew one co-defendant, Mr. Riza, and added that his client was unaware of any scheme and was shocked by his arrest.

Attorney for Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Riza could not immediately be reached for comment.

New York City's complex campaign finance laws are at the heart of the events described in court documents. To reduce the influence of big donors and favor less connected candidates, New York City eight times The first $250 of resident donations. The defendants were accused of trying to cover up a large donation by channeling it through a straw donor. That allowed the campaign to raise more city funds, and potentially strengthened the defendant's influence with the incoming mayor.

It is unclear how much public money was spent as a result of the scheme.

On Friday, Evan Thies, a spokesman for the Adams 2021 campaign, thanked prosecutors for their “hard work on behalf of the taxpayer”.

“The campaign has always been held to the highest standards and we will never tolerate this action,” said Mr Thies. “The campaign will of course work closely with the DA's office, the Campaign Finance Board and other relevant authorities.”

The defendants held two fundraisers for Mr Adams, one in August 2020 and another a year later. The second came after Mr. Adams won his primary, effectively securing his election as mayor of an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

For each fundraiser, according to prosecutors, the defendants recruited straw donors and then returned them.

“I will prepare the money for you,” Mr. Riza texted a relative, according to the charges.

The defendants appeared to be aware that they were engaging in risky behavior.

“You have to be careful because you have to make sure you do it through workers they trust, it's not going to talk, because remember a man went to jail for that,” Mr. Peek told Mr. Riza at one point, according to the indictment.

The defendants appeared to have hoped their contribution would help them win contracts for construction projects. In July 2021, Mr. Riza forwarded an email to Mr. Montgomery advertising the project.

“FYI! This is a project I want, Safety, Drywall and Security, but we can all eat!” Mr. Riza wrote.

It is unclear whether Mr Adams was personally present at the fundraising event. But Mr. Montgomery tells Mr. Riza that the mayor will be more likely if they can promise a certain amount of money will be collected, an unusual practice among politicians.

Mr Adams “didn't want to do anything if he didn't get 25 Gs,” said Mr Montgomery, according to the indictment.

Mr Adams' campaign team said Mr Montgomery appeared to be referring to the standard amount expected of a host for general election fundraising.

In a July 2021 phone call, Pak Riza told Pak Peek: “I know what campaign finance law is. Make sure it's $1,000 in your name and $1,000 in someone else's name because matched funds are eight to one, so $2,000 is $16,000.”