NEW YORK – Bernard Kerik led a life of conspiracy, tax cheating and lying to the highest levels of government during the time he served as New York City’s 39th police commissioner and close ally of Rudolph Giuliani, federal prosecutors charged Friday.

In a 16-count indictment unsealed Friday in White Plains federal district court, Kerik, 52, was charged with a variety of serious crimes that go back to 1998 when he served as the head of the city’s Department of Correction.

The indictment charged that Kerik’s receipt of $255,000 from two businessmen seeking to do business with the city amounted to a sale of his office which defrauded the city of his “honest services” while he was corrections chief and police commissioner, said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia at a news conference Friday.

The money was for renovations to Kerik’s apartment, prosecutors said.

“Several of the payments were made on his behalf after he had taken an oath as the New York City police commissioner, breaking the law he had sworn to uphold,” said Garcia.

While the indictment only identifies the businessmen as “John Doe” the charges appear to relate to Frank and Peter DiTomasso, whose Interstate Industrial Corp. was a firm investigators alleged had ties to the mob. Kerik is accused of vouching for the company while it was trying to do city business and then hiding his relationship with the brothers. The DiTomassos weren’t charged.

The benefits from the company and other income formed the basis for tax fraud charges against Kerik. Prosecutors also charged that Kerik lied about his background to the White House in 2004 when he was being vetted for the job of head of the Department of Homeland Security, a position Giuliani had strongly recommended him for. The indictment also accused Kerik of lying in 2002 on an application for a job as adviser to President Bush’s advisory council on homeland security.

Garcia declined comment when asked about political implications of the indictment.

Kerik appeared before Magistrate-Judge George Yanthis and entered a plea of not guilty. Yanthis freed Kerik on a $500,000 bond secured by his New Jersey home.

Outside the courthouse Kerik brought up Sept. 11, saying the entire experience was his biggest challenge since the terror attacks.

“This is a challenge I am going to fight,” said Kerik, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., as his defense attorney Ken Breen of Manhattan stood beside him.

“Bernie Kerik is going to fight these charges, and he is going to beat these charges because he didn’t do it. He was wrongly charged,” said Breen.

The case has been assigned to Judge Steven Robinson, who held a brief hearing. Prosecutors Perry Carbone and Elliott B. Jacobson said they had amassed over 2,500 wiretapped conversations.

Breen told Robinson he believed parts of the case had serous statute of limitations problems. Robinson adjourned the case until Jan. 16.

The indictment is a continuation of Kerik’s fall from grace which began in 2004 when Giuliani put forward his name to Bush as a possible head of DHS. After questions surfaced about his personal and business life, Kerik dropped out of consideration, citing problems with his paying for an off-the-books nanny. The nanny payments were included in the list of tax charges revealed Friday.

Kerik pleaded guilty in June 2006 to misdemeanor state charges involving $165,000 in payments from the DiTomasso brothers company. Kerik paid more than $221,000 in fines and penalties. The federal indictment charges that Kerik tried to obstruct the state grand jury investigation handled by the Bronx district attorney’s office.

“A beat cop accepting a free cup of coffee or a “meal on the arm,’ is properly viewed by the public as wrong. Kerik’s alleged conduct is an order of magnitude much worse than that,” David Cardona, head of the FBI’s criminal division in New York, told reporters.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

AP-NY-11-09-07 2017EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.