BY DAN FRIEDMAN
Evidence against Grimm includes texts and emails between Grimm and cooperating witnesses, three years of Grimm’s financial disclosure reports in Congress and tax returns by a former Grimm business partner linked to the Gambino crime family.
Rep. Michael Grimm calls the case against him a “political witch-hunt.” If that’s true, it looks like a well-documented one.
In a hearing Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Capozzolo said the government is turning over more than 7,000 documents and 8,000 emails supporting the charges against Grimm.
The Staten Island Republican faces 20 counts including wire fraud, tax evasion, perjury and hiring of undocumented workers at a Manhattan health food restaurant, Healthalicious, which he partly owned from 2006 to 2010.
The Daily News has reported that Ofer Biton, an Israeli who had a stake in the restaurant and helped Grimm raise money for his 2010 congressional campaign, and a former Healthalicious manager, Manuel Perez, have cooperated with feds against Grimm after coping pleas.
A former Grimm accountant, Wayne Muratoe, testified before a grand jury days before Grimm’s indictment.
But a May 19 letter from the prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York listing evidence that is being turned over adds detail on how Grimm’s former pals helped the government indict him for cheating on taxes.
The preliminary list of evidence includes emails between Grimm and a “Healthalicious manager,” “documents provided by a cooperat[ing] witness,” and “records provided by a Healthalicious employee.” Also listed are “text messages between Grimm and a cooperating witness.”
The list of evidence indicates a seemingly straightforward federal case. Prosecutors plan to prove Grimm maintained a false set of books and lied in financial filings. They will contrast the phony forms with material provided by cooperating witnesses, and with Grimm’s own statements in texts and emails.
Prosecutors are turning over an extensive list of financial documents. Those include years of tax, health and labor filings by Healthalicious and its parent company, Granny Sayz, records of Grimm’s personal finances, the restaurant’s accounts, bank account and credit card records and financial disclosure forms Grimm filed in Congress from 2009 to 2012.
The documents show that prosecutors obtained warrants for, searched and analyzed “two cellular telephones” during their investigation.
Also included in the discovery are IRS 1040 forms by Bennett Orfaly, a partner in the restaurant. Feds have said Orfaly is close Anthony (Fat Tony) Morelli, a capo in the Gambino crime family captain, which Grimm, as an FBI agent, was once briefly assigned to investigate.
Grimm, who faces an uphill reelection fight against against Democratic challenger Domenic Recchia, also won a judge’s permission to skip future court appearances.
The Congressman looks likely to face voters before confronting a jury.
District Court Judge Pamela Chen set the next hearing in the case for July 21. She said she’ll declare a “complex case” due the amount of evidence and number of charges. That designation will slow proceedings.
Grimm and his lawyers indicated no plans on Monday to try to speed up the trial to obtain a verdict before Election Day on Nov. 4.