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U.S. attorney charges former NYS pension fund portfolio manager in bribery scandal

Karen DeWitt
WRVO News (file photo)

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is bringing charges against a former portfolio manager in the state’s pension fund, saying he accepted bribes — that included prostitutes and illegal drugs —from two hedge fund brokers.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who is not implicated in the case, said in a statement that he’s “outraged” by the “shocking betrayal” of the former portfolio manager, Navnoor Kang, who was fired in February. DiNapoli thanked the U.S. attorney for bringing the charges.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a longtime political rival of the comptroller, said it raises questions about the state comptroller’s role as sole trustee of one of the largest pension funds in the nation.

Cuomo said hedge fund managers are eager for a share of the lucrative fund.

“The temptation for corruption and bribery and bid-rigging is very, very high,” Cuomo said. “Given the system we have.”

Cuomo compared the case to his successful prosecution of a former state comptroller when Cuomo was state attorney general. Alan Hevesi served jail time for corruption.

In response to the governor’s comments, a spokeswoman for the comptroller said the crimes were the work of a “rogue employee” and that pension fund boards also have had scandals.

Cuomo’s administration is facing its own scandal from a federal probe. The governor’s former top aide, a lobbyist close to the Cuomo family, the former head of SUNY Polytechnic and several others have been charged with or pleaded guilty to bribery and bid-rigging in connection with an economic development contract scandal that includes Buffalo Billion projects.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.