Kerik pleads guilty to tax crimes, lying to White House; prison time sought

By Jim Fitzgerald
Friday, November 6, 2009

Former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik admitted in court Thursday that he lied to White House aides in 2004 while being considered for secretary of homeland security.

Kerik also pleaded guilty to lying on tax returns, a loan application and a questionnaire he filled out when he was seeking a different federal position. He is to be sentenced Feb. 18.

Kerik, 54, was police commissioner when New York was attacked in 2001, and he was praised worldwide for his leadership. At the urging of his mentor, former mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Kerik was nominated to lead the Department of Homeland Security in 2004.

While being vetted for that position, he denied having any financial dealings with anyone doing business with the city and said he specifically refused payments that were offered. On Thursday, however, he admitted that he accepted renovations of his Bronx apartment from a company seeking city work.

That work was the focus of a corruption charge alleging that Kerik accepted the renovations in exchange for vouching for the company. Under the terms of the plea agreement, that charge was dropped.

In a low but firm voice, Kerik said "guilty" eight times as he admitted to eight felonies, including lying about paying taxes on his children's nanny, hiding income from the Internal Revenue Service and faking a charitable contribution. Kerik acknowledged failing to declare on his returns book royalties, consultant fees and the use of a BMW.

Prosecutors urged Judge Stephen Robinson to sentence Kerik to 27 to 33 months in prison. Robinson is not bound by that suggestion.

Kerik was jailed last month after he allegedly shared secret pretrial information, an allegation Kerik denied. Defense attorney Michael Bachman said he would seek to have Kerik released until sentencing.

The judge said he will consider Kerik's accomplishments when he sentences him. "You've had a very full life," Robinson told Kerik. "There is much good in that full life, I believe."

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called Thursday "a sad day" because of Kerik's admissions. "No one is above the law," he added.

Kerik could be fined in addition to being sentenced to prison. He has already agreed to pay nearly $188,000 in restitution and to resummit his personal tax returns for six years, paying past-due taxes and penalties.

The charges against him had been divided into corruption allegations, tax crimes and lying to the White House. Three trials would have been required, two in White Plains, N.Y., and one in Washington.

-- Associated Press

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