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Eric Adams

Eric Adams’s Rough Week Ends With Criminal Charges Against His 2021 Campaign Supporters

A group of Adams supporters, including a former NYPD Inspector, allegedly conspired to funnel illegal cash to the mayor's campaign.

Eric Adams

(Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

Mayor Eric Adams has had a rough week. First, the New York Times reported that City Hall staff had to whip up a bogus photograph of a slain cop to match the mayor's claim that he carried that man's photograph in his wallet. Next came stories about how powerful business interests successfully undermined his own transportation department. And today, when Adams could be taking a victory lap on some encouraging crime news, the mayor was instead greeted this morning with a 32-page indictment from the Manhattan District Attorney's office, which charged a group of people with allegedly funneling illegal cash to his 2021 mayoral campaign to gain favors once Adams took office.

"We allege a deliberate scheme to game the system in a blatant attempt to gain power," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. "The indictment charges the defendants with subverting campaign finance laws by improperly structuring campaign contributions."

Adams himself is not named in the indictment.

When Adams ran for mayor in 2021, he took advantage of the City's public financing system, which was created to encourage candidates to seek out small donations instead of relying on big checks from powerful interests. This meant that for every $250 donated by a New York City resident, the City's Campaign Finance Board would match that donation eight-to-one, so a $250 donation could turn into $2,000 from the CFB.

According to the indictment, the six defendants distributed their own cash to a group of more than two dozen straw donors, who then made smaller donations to Adams's campaign in order to trigger the matching funds. No dollar amount is stated in the indictment, but a rough tally of the donations shows that tens of thousands of dollars in public matching funds could have been diverted. 

The indictment states that the alleged scheme started in August of 2020, when one of the defendants, Dwayne Montgomery, a former NYPD inspector, organized a virtual campaign event for Adams, which was used to generate contributions from straw donors.

"On or about August 19, 2020, Dwayne Montgomery emailed Campaign Representative-1, attaching a receipt of a contribution by Straw Donor-9 and requested that Dwayne Montgomery and UCC-1 [unnamed co-conspirator 1] be credited for the contribution," the indictment reads.

A year later, another defendant, 70-year-old Shamsuddin Riza, allegedly sent an email to Montgomery about a construction project in Brooklyn that they were apparently hoping to try and attach themselves to, using their contributions. (Riza, according to the indictment, had also organized a group of straw donors to donate to Adams's campaign. The Manhattan DA's office has also charged Riza's construction business with falsifying business records in a separate case.)

"FYI ! This is the one I want , Safety , Drywall , and Security one project but we all can eat !" Riza allegedly emailed. "Please show to him before Event it will start when he's in office." 

There are numerous unnamed co-conspirators who appear in the charging documents, and at least one Adams campaign staffer, the aforementioned "Campaign Representative-1." One of the straw donors was allegedly a Manhattan Democratic district leader. It's not clear if Adams or his campaign ever met with any of the people named in the indictment, though Montgomery allegedly touted a potential meeting in late 2020, and purported to speak for Adams.

"[The Candidate] said he doesn't want to do anything if he doesn't get 25 Gs," Montgomery allegedly said in a phone conversation with another person named in the indcitment.

Hell Gate asked Evan Thies, a spokesperson for the Adams 2021 campaign, if Adams or anyone from the campaign had ever met with any of the people named in the indictment, and what people should make of the "25 Gs" comment. Thies sent a statement that elided these questions.

"The campaign thanks the District Attorney’s office for their hard work on behalf of taxpayers," Thies wrote in an email. "There is no indication that the campaign or the mayor is involved in this case or under investigation. The campaign always held itself to the highest standards and we would never tolerate these actions. The campaign will of course work with the DA’s office, the Campaign Finance Board, and any relevant authorities."

Later, when we pointed out that Adams and Montgomery overlapped at the NYPD, and both testified at the federal stop and frisk trial, Thies sent another statement, admitting that Adams and Montgomery know each other.

"Montgomery was a colleague of the mayor in the police department whom he knew socially and worked on criminal justice issues with," Thies wrote. "Dozens of former police officers and criminal justice advocates hosted events for the mayor over the course of the campaign."

What about after Adams took office? Has the mayor met with any of these people? Has he done business with them, or any related companies? A spokesperson for the mayor hasn't responded yet to our questions.

Montgomery, 64, who is also listed as the "Director of Integrity" for Teamsters Local 237, a municipal workers union, is being represented by attorney Anthony Ricco, who did not respond to our request for comment.

In addition to Montgomery and Riza, the others named in the indictment are Millicent Redick, 77; Ronald Peek, 65; Yahya Mushtaq, 28; and Shahid Mushtaq, 29.

Muhammad Ikhlas, an attorney for Riza, wrote in an email that that his client pled not guilty, and was released on his own recognizance, and declined to comment beyond that. Montgomery, Shahid Mushtaq, and Redick also pled not guilty today; Peek and Yahya Mushtaq did not have arraignments scheduled for Friday, according to the Manhattan DA's office.

Hell Gate reached out to the other attorneys for the defendants with requests for comment, and will update if they respond.

Ecosafety Consultants Inc., a construction company connected to the Mushtaq brothers which is also named as a defendant, did not respond to a request for comment.

There are currently no public events on the mayor's schedule today.

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