At 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Representative Michael “I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony” Grimm turned himself in to the FBI in New York. After that, he was taken to Lower Manhattan for processing. This has been a long time coming: The Staten Island Congressman, whose impending indictment was finally announced last week, is the subject of a two-year federal investigation into his 2010 fund-raising operation.
Grimm is facing 20 counts of perjury, various kinds of fraud, obstruction of justice, and hiring illegal workers, among other things. Those charges are all related to an Upper East Side health-food restaurant, Healthalicious, which he opened in 2006 — after he quit his job as an FBI agent and before he ran for Congress or (allegedly) spent 15 minutes doing something with a woman in a Bay Ridge bar bathroom. New York state once fined Healthalicious $88,000 as a result of a lawsuit brought by its employees, who complained of being paid less than minimum wage off the books. The federal indictment includes more stuff like that. The New York Times has the gist:
Between 2007 and 2010, the indictment says, Mr. Grimm paid “a significant portion” of employees’ wages in cash, with many employees receiving about half their pay through direct deposit or check, and the other half in cash. He kept two sets of payroll records, and concealed the set that detailed what he was actually paying from payroll-processing companies and an accountant. That led to the payroll companies inadvertently filing erroneous tax forms, since the forms were based on the fake records.
In some cases, the indictment says, Mr. Grimm paid employees entirely in cash so that the payroll processors had no records of those employees at all.
The indictment details how, from March 2010 to June 2010, Mr. Grimm sent emails to the restaurant manager that had “excerpts from the second set of payroll records, detailing how much cash each Healthalicious employee should receive for a particular week.” Those emails, as well as the tax returns that were allegedly based on inaccurate information, resulted in the wire and mail fraud charges.
The company under which Grimm ran Healthalicious, Granny Sayz, LLC, was “connected” to a business affiliated with an Israeli fundraiser named Ofer Biton, who served as a liaison between Grimm and the followers of Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto. Pinto is a multi-millionaire celebrity rabbi, and donations from his congregants were crucial to Grimm winning his 2010 campaign. In August, Biton pleaded guilty to immigration-fraud charges. “The plea ended a standoff of several months, during which prosecutors asserted that Biton was not cooperating in their Grimm investigation,” the Washington Post notes. Meanwhile, on Friday, Diana Durand, a Texas woman and former Grimm girlfriend, was indicted in Brooklyn for using straw donors to funnel illegal contributions to Grimm.
So, while Grimm might only be in trouble over his sketchy restaurant for now, it seems likely that he’ll face charges over his campaign activities soon enough. Either way, the House’s rules do not prevent indicted members from lawmaking, which means that Grimm can continue to proudly represent Staten Island in Congress.
This post has been updated throughout.