December 12, 2012 / 1:55 PM / in 5 years

Central figure in New York pension scam released from jail

Dec 12 (Reuters) - Former New York State comptroller Alan Hevesi, the top official convicted in a corruption scandal at the state pension fund, was released from prison on Wednesday, the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said.

Hevesi, 72, had been incarcerated since April 2011 for his role in the “pay to play” scheme involving the pension fund. Hevesi admitted accepting nearly $1 million in benefits from a Los Angeles-based money manager who got $250 million in pension fund money to invest.

Hevesi left the Mid-State Correctional Facility, a medium-security state prison in upstate Marcy, New York, about 100 miles west of the state capital, Albany, around 8 a.m. EST (1 300 GMT), t he Department of Corrections said.

“He was picked up by his son, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi,” Peter Cutler, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Corrections, said in an email.

Hevesi had served 20 months of a one-to-four-year sentence and was granted parole after a hearing last month.

“I got arrogant,” Hevesi told the parole board at the Nov. 14 hearing, according to a transcript. Keeping company with Wall Street billionaires and heads of state, he said he became “a big shot” in his “own head” and felt he was “entitled” to “perks,” too.

Among the gifts Hevesi accepted were luxury travel expenses.

Hevesi had a 35-year career in public office, serving as a state assemblyman, New York city comptroller, and state comptroller. He sought the Democratic nomination for New York City mayor in 2001. He holds a doctorate in public law and government from Columbia University in New York.

Hevesi’s fall from grace began when he resigned as state comptroller in 2006 and pleaded guilty to defrauding the government by using a state employee to chauffeur his wife. He was spared jail time for that crime but agreed never to seek elected office again.

The probe of corruption at the New York state pension fund, the third largest in the United States and recently valued at about $150 billion, was conducted by former New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo, now the state’s governor.

Eight people pleaded guilty in the scandal, including Elliott Broidy, founder of Markstone Capital Partners, the Los Angeles-based private investment firm.

Other high-profile players in the private equity world also got swept up in the probe, including Steve Rattner, co-founder of the Quadrangle Group, who resigned in 2009 as head of the U.S. auto task force as the investigation intensified. Rattner settled the probe for $10 million.

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