Thomas Zambito, New York Daily News, Dec. 16, 2006
Wearing a smart black suit with pink pumps and a matching handbag, Lucia Sanchez had an eye for fashion yesterday — but not for her co-defendant boyfriend, Bronx state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr.
The indicted twosome pleaded not guilty yesterday to federal mail and wire-fraud charges, but didn’t acknowledge each other during a brief appearance in Manhattan Federal Court.
But federal prosecutors say the two worked closely together for more than seven years to loot a Bronx charity out of more than $400,000 in taxpayer money.
The feds say the married Democratic lawmaker — who sported a dark suit, a striped tie and a bemused look — steered $425,000 in so-called pork-barrel funds to a Bronx charity for hard-luck kids called Pathways for Youth and then had the group’s executive director funnel the money to the West Bronx Neighborhood Association, a charity controlled by Sanchez, 50.
The association was supposed to be promoting government efficiency, but instead, prosecutors say, it functioned as Gonzalez’s personal piggy bank, with Sanchez writing the checks. Some $50,000 went to pay rent on a luxury apartment in the Dominican Republic for Gonzalez’s wife. Another $9,000 was spent for labels on cigars produced at Gonzalez’s Dominican factory.