Helluva ‘doctor’ bill! By BRUCE GOLDING Last Updated: 2:09 AM, November 15, 2011
NY Post: Chad Rachman A Bronx pol found a novel way to turn everyday eating and drinking into a moneymaking venture, the feds say.
Prosecutors contend that Councilman Larry Seabrook — on trial in Manhattan for a wide-ranging corruption scheme tied to council-funded nonprofits — added digits to receipts he submitted for reimbursement, bumping up the tab on everything from a bagel sandwich to a bottle of rum.
But the receipts were hardly doctored with surgical precision.
Testifying yesterday, a retired liquor-store owner detailed the ham-handed alteration of one of two sales slips that the Democrat allegedly used in a scheme the feds say involved more than $1.5 million in council “slush” funds that went to a network of nonprofits he secretly controlled.
Allen Mabowitz said he originally wrote out the undated receipt from Palace Wines and Liquors in Co-op City, which he ran from 1965 until selling it in May.
Mabowitz, 70, told a Manhattan federal jury that a receipt Seabrook submitted for reimbursement for fancy Bacardi Anejo rum was fudged beyond belief.
The first line of the receipt lists 11 bottles of the rum as being sold for $99.99.
Mabowitz said that in 2008, a single bottle sold for $19.99 — meaning that 11 would have cost well over $200, while the total on the suspect slip, which also includes another bottle of booze, is just $141.26.
It also means that someone apparently changed “1” bottle to “11” bottles and the “1” in $19.99 to a “9” so the receipt showed $99.99.
Mabowitz further said the $23.28 in sales tax listed for the rum and a $17.99 bottle of E & J Brandy “doesn’t correspond” with the 8.75 percent in government levies on consumer purchases.
“How do you know?” prosecutor Steve Lee asked.
“Just off the top of my head — I’ve been in business since March of ’65,” Mabowitz answered.
During cross-examination, Mabowitz said he didn’t remember writing the receipt, admitting that he probably rang up hundreds of thousands of sales during his career.
He also said he didn’t recognize Seabrook, who stood up at the defense table, and wouldn’t have asked the 60-year-old pol to prove his age.
“If someone looks 40 years old, I’m not going to ask for ID,” Mabowitz said.
“If they look 20, or 21, or 25, I’m going to ask for ID.”
The Palace Wines receipt is one of two that the feds say Seabrook dummied up to help convert more than $40,000 in contributions to his North East Bronx Community Democratic Club for his “personal use.”
The other receipt — which the feds revealed when announcing corruption charges against Seabrook last year — massively increased the cost of a single bagel sandwich and diet Snapple to more than $177.
A copy of the questionable chit from Bits Bites and Baguettes on Park Place lists the price of the bagel at $155.60 and the drink at $21.45.
With added sales tax of 60 cents, the total cost of the meager meal — which was apparently delivered to the “Members Lounge” in nearby City Hall — came in at $177.64.
A witness from Bits Bites and Baguettes is expected to testify that the bagel receipt was cooked up hotter than the soup of the day.
But in a pre-emptive attack, defense lawyer Edward Wilford used his cross-examination of lawyer and former Seabrook aide William Low to try and poke holes in the feds’ charges.
Low — who testified previously that he reimbursed Seabrook for more than 1,600 receipts using club funds — said he didn’t know if Seabrook had actually made any cash purchases himself, or had sought payment to reimburse expenses incurred by others.
Low also said he “didn’t see an alteration” on the bagel receipt because he was “generally interested in the total.”
Low noted that he listed the receipt as a “catering” expense on the “assumption” that it was for a City Hall reception, “based on the amount” and because “it was something at the Members Lounge.”
Low, who was accompanied to court by his own lawyer, admitted that he was testifying under a court-ordered grant of immunity to protect his law license because of concerns that “the government could very well have charged me with conscious avoidance.”
He insisted, however, that he “did nothing wrong.”
The ex-husband of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills, Low also admitted that Seabrook stood by him during his “darkest hour,” when the lawyer was struggling with a drug addiction he developed while serving with the US Air Force from 1972 to 1975.
Low previously testified that Seabrook was his “best friend” until a falling out in 2009, which was around the time that questions began being raised about Seabrook’s spending of campaign and public funds.
Michael Benjamin
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