by Chad Marks
Norman Seabrook, 58, who served as the head of the union representing New York City jail guards for over 20 years, once reportedly said, “It’s time for Norman Seabrook to get paid.” Soon after making that statement in 2014, he received a $60,000 bribe delivered in a Ferragamo designer handbag – the first of several anticipated payments.
Five years later, on February 8, 2019, a federal judge ordered Seabrook to pay up for accepting that money when he sentenced the ex-union boss to nearly five years in prison.
Federal prosecutors indicted Seabrook in 2016 for accepting bribes to invest union retirement funds in a now-defunct hedge fund called Platinum Partners. [See: PLN, Nov. 2017, p.24]. Seabrook was president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association. As part of his duties, he was tasked with controlling union finances – including the administration of a city-funded benefits account that invests more than $70 million for members’ retirement. The union lost $20 million after Seabrook shifted funds to Platinum Partners.
Murray Huberfeld, 58, a co-founder of the hedge fund, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to 30 months in prison in February 2019. Platinum Partners went bankrupt, though the union was able to recoup some of its losses.
Following a retrial after his first trial ended in a hung jury, Seabrook was found guilty of the bribery charges in August 2018.
“Mr. Seabrook, I believe, was blinded by his sense of his own importance and his desire to benefit himself after benefiting others for so long,” the sentencing judge stated.
“There is no evidence that I ever intended for any union member to lose a dime,” Seabrook countered. “I always believed these investments would make money.”
Three union members who testified at the sentencing hearing described Seabrook as a man with a hot temper who acted more as a tyrant than president of the union. Former New York City jail guard Celestino Moncolova was harsh in his criticism, describing Seabrook as a “greedy, manipulating bully” who ran a “reign of terror.” Eric Deravin, a retired deputy warden, called Seabrook an “arrogant self-serving dictator” who “stole the heart and soul of the entire Department of Correction.”
In addition to the 58-month prison sentence, Seabrook was ordered to pay $19 million in restitution. He remains free on bond pending an appeal.
“Tens of thousands of hardworking correction officers once looked to Norman Seabrook as their leader and champion,” stated Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. “Seabrook now stands convicted of betraying them for a bag full of cash and the promise of more.”
Sources: gothamist.com, courthousenews.com, wsj.com, nypost.com, justice.gov
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