Adams’ pick for sheriff faces questions over campaign finance irregularities

NEW YORK — Anthony Miranda was running in a crowded race for New York City Council last year when, with primary day approaching, he dug into his own pocket to lend his campaign $11,000.

If the payout put any financial strain on the former NYPD sergeant, it quickly subsided as loss turned into profit. After a late-breaking infusion of public matching funds, the campaign paid back the $11,000 a day before the primary — along with $1,320 in interest.

That repayment would far exceed interest rates laid out in New York’s civil and criminal usury laws, and also appears to have violated election statutes that prohibit candidates from personally profiting from their campaigns.

Now Mayor Eric Adams has turned to Miranda, who lost his Council race, to become the New York City sheriff, a lesser-known law enforcement post that comes with vastly different responsibilities compared with most places in the country. Among a number of duties, the job will require Miranda to enforce financial judgments from the courts.

The details of the loan payoff — obtained by POLITICO through a public records request and reported here for the first time — indicate a tenuous grasp of state statutes for someone charged with ensuring others comply with the law.

Through a mayoral spokesperson, Miranda said he will work to ensure his prior campaign complies with election laws.

“Throughout my career in law enforcement and public service, I have always conducted myself with the utmost integrity and held myself to the highest ethical standards,” he said in a statement provided by the mayor’s office. “I am consulting with an election law expert to ensure full compliance with campaign finance law. My campaign continues to work with the Campaign Finance Board to respond to any questions it may have during its standard review process.”

A spokesperson for the finance board declined to comment on Miranda and said audits on all candidates who ran last year are currently underway.

During his City Council run for the Queens seat now occupied by Council Member Sandra Ung, Miranda raised just over $30,000 from donors and was awarded more than $148,000 in public matching funds on June 17, just five days before the primary, according to campaign finance records. Because matching dollars are paid from city tax revenue, they come with additional rules and a thorough audit from the finance board, which will eventually determine whether Miranda ran afoul of any rules.

“The candidate is now at the mercy of the Campaign Finance Board, which could fine him a great deal and refer his case for criminal prosecution if they believe he was intentionally grifting some extra money from campaign funds,” John Kaehny of government watchdog group Reinvent Albany wrote in an email. “Or, the candidate could try to persuade the CFB that both he and the treasurer thought it was somehow OK to charge an interest rate higher than many loan sharks.”

Miranda documented the loan — paid in a $6,000 installment in mid May and a $5,000 installment in early June — with the finance board last spring, according to paperwork obtained through a public records request.

The agreements indicated that each advance would carry a 12 percent interest rate without specifying when it would be paid back. While that would have been in line with short-term borrowing rates if it were repaid over one year, Miranda collected a 12 percent profit over just a few weeks.

According to Thomas Fleming — a partner at the law firm Olshan who has litigated numerous usury cases — loan repayments must be annualized to see how they stack up against state law.

For example, if someone were to borrow $1,000 and repay it a month later, along with $100 in interest, that would equate to $1,200 in interest over the whole year, or 120 percent of the principal.

Under state law, an annual interest rate topping 16 percent for many types of personal loans is considered civil usury — meaning the borrower would have a right to sue the lender. Rates over 25 percent per annum are typically considered criminal usury, a Class C felony that could result in fines or jail time in cases where the rate was knowingly charged.

In Miranda’s case, according to POLITICO’s calculations, one of the installments would translate to a 112 percent annual interest rate and the other to a 219 percent annual rate — a conservative estimate absent compounding interest.

“Based on what our laws state, the interest rates you’re describing would be usurious,” Fleming said.

In addition, New York prohibits anyone running for office from using contributions for personal gain. While candidates are free to lend their campaigns money, they are expressly barred from collecting interest as Miranda appears to have done.

Miranda has a long history with Adams, a Democrat, who praised his new hire’s law enforcement bona fides last week when announcing the appointment.

“Anthony Miranda has spent decades protecting and serving the people of this city, and, as sheriff, he will bring his experience, expertise, and passion to ensure the office fulfills its mission and serves all New Yorkers fairly and equitably,” the mayor said in a statement at the time.

The two led outspoken fraternal organizations within the NYPD, appearing at news conferences together and teaming up on issues, according to several new reports from the early 2000s. At the time, Adams was leading 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care while Miranda was at the helm of the Latino Officers Association, an organization co-founded by his political ally Hiram Monserrate.

Monserrate — who was expelled from the state Senate and is effectively barred from serving in the City Council — also has a long history with Adams. He is now running for state Assembly in Queens. And last month, POLITICO reported two envoys from the mayor’s transition team offered Monserrate’s opponent a job in city government. The overture — which another mayoral spokesperson, Fabien Levy, maintained never happened — would have cleared the field for the former legislator’s political comeback if it had been successful.

In 2010, Monserrate was ousted from the state Senate after a domestic violence incident, with Adams among the eight members of the 62-member body who voted against removal.

Monserrate was charged with slashing his partner in the face with a broken glass and dragging her through an apartment building lobby, and was convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to probation and community service. At the time, he apologized for his behavior and by the end of the case his partner joined him in saying the slashing was an accident.

In 2012, Monserrate was sentenced to two years in jail after he admitted to misappropriating city tax funds to aid a run for state office. He apologized to a federal judge, and later was effectively barred from serving in the City Council by a law prohibiting anyone convicted of crimes including public corruption from holding municipal office.

Several of Adams’ recent hires have run into controversy after accepting high-ranking posts. Former Council Member Fernando Cabrera, and pastors Erick Salgado and Kathlyn Barrett-Layne, for example, attracted criticism from the LGBTQ community over past anti-gay comments. While Barrett-Layne’s appointment to the Panel for Education Policy was revoked, Cabrera and Salgado remain on staff.