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Fruit Basket Fails to Shield Former Lawmaker from Fraud Charges

On Wednesday, a former New York state lawmaker pleaded guilty to wire fraud for making promises of getting the sentence of an accused reduced, and asking the accused to send him $80,000 hidden in a basket of fruits.

Jimmy Meng, 69, who used to represent Queens in the state Assembly, and whose daughter Grace Meng represents Queens today, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Allyne Ross in Brooklyn to the offense, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. However, under the plea deal, prosecutors have agreed to go for a sentence between 12 and 18 months.

According to prosecutors, one Eric Hu approached Meng to help in negotiating a favorable plea deal in tax crimes, for which he had been charged in the state court in Manhattan.

Though Meng did not have any influence with the prosecutors, he represented that he could get Hu’s sentence reduced to one year and $20,000 per prosecutor would be needed to get the job done.

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As there were four prosecutors in Hu’s case, Hu, according to specific instructions of Meng, sent an amount of $80,000 stuffed in a fruit basket to Meng. During the course of events, the two men discussed things and modus operandi several times over the phone.

Meng was arrested on July 24 after receiving the fruit basket from Hu in a Queens lumber yard owned by Meng. While pleading guilty on Wednesday, Meng admitted that he meant to keep the money himself and never intended to bribe the prosecutors.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said that Meng “dangled the promise of justice for sale, but his claims of special access to prosecutors were nothing more than lies, designed to satisfy his greed.”

The case is U.S. v. Meng, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 12-704.

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