Poor Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (R-Staten Island)-- His Hometown Paper Is The NY Times... The Cyprus Connection
Two crooks who know their way around a tanning salon
If you're a typical crooked congressman from Anywhere, USA-- or even a one-man organized crime machine like Buck McKeon up in Santa Clarita-- chances are local reporters are indisposed to "go after" you and your criminal activities (since the publisher is his best friend and your boss) and you don't have the resources to do a real investigation anyway. Take New Hampshire. Both incumbent congressmen, Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta, are counted among the nonpartisan watchdog group CREW's "Most Corrupt." The biggest paper in the state, the Manchester Union-Leader is a right-wing propaganda sheet backing their candidacies and the rest of the local media doesn't have the ability to conduct the kind of thoroughgoing investigations that could land Guinta and Bass on he unemployment line-- if not behind bars.
But look at another Republican incumbent on CREW's list of the most corrupt members of Congress, Michael Grimm (R-NY) and it's a whole different story. The local paper, filled with the most talented journalists in the country and not worried about offending some two-bit freshman congressman, is the New York Times. William Rashbaum is one of the most respected (and feared) national investigative journalists in America and Alison Cowan, although "just" on the City desk, is in the exact right position to make Grimm's shady life a living hell. Yesterday Cowan and Rashbaum filed another Grimm exposé and as I was scanning it I came across a familiar name: Panicos Papanicolaou, who they refer to as "Peter." At the link under his name you'll see a story about an ongoing federal corruption investigation into the awarding of construction contracts by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development and how one of the key culprits was Papanicolaou. A few days later a newspaper in Cyprus reported on the same story:
US authorities have charged a prominent member of the Cypriot community in America with bribing a New York housing agency official, reports said.
Contractor Panayiotis “Peter” Papanicolaou, 50, has been charged with bribing a Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) official by paying for his $12,000 (€9,600) honeymoon.
Papanicolaou is the chairman of the Cyprus Federation of America (CFA), whose mission is to “promote the rights, and freedoms of the Cypriot people, and work towards the termination of the illegal occupation of Cyprus from Turkey.”
Papanicolaou, who is free on bail, was arrested along with four other individuals in connection with kickback and bribery schemes involving the HPD, reports said.
...The New York Times said a criminal complaint charged Brooklyn-based Papanicolaou, who had received contracts for several Department of HPD projects, with paying $12,390 to send Wendell Walters, the organisation’s top official, on a honeymoon trip to Greece.
And Walters wasn't the only one he sent to Cyprus. He also paid for New York's most corrupt Republican, Michael Grimm. Grimm broke House rules to try to hide it but once he realized Cowan and Rashbaum were onto him, he amended his filing with the House... a month late-- and "one day after his host on the trip, Peter Papanicolaou, the president of the Cyprus Federation of America, which paid for the $6,890 visit, was arrested in Brooklyn on federal corruption charges."
In July 2011, about a month before Mr. Grimm’s trip, his office issued a news release saying he would co-sponsor a bill to help give Americans who own property in what the release called “Turkish-Occupied Cyprus” recourse to seek restitution for the “illegal use and occupation of their property.”
Cyprus is divided between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north, which is not recognized internationally.
The news release noted that Mr. Grimm planned to travel to Cyprus in August 2011 with representatives of the Greek-Cypriot community from his district.
But Mr. Grimm’s office subsequently made little effort to publicize the trip.
Mr. Papanicolaou accompanied him on the trip, as did Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Staten Island Republican who issued a news release about it. They met with the president of the Republic of Cyprus, the foreign minister, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, and other dignitaries.
According to an itinerary that was belatedly filed with the House of Representatives on July 23, the first full day of the weeklong trip featured lunch with Mr. Papanicolau at his home.
While the same prosecutor, Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Capozzolo, is handling both the investigation of Mr. Grimm and the case against Mr. Papanicolaou, it is not clear whether the investigation into Mr. Grimm has examined his ties to Mr. Papanicolaou.
Mr. Papanicolaou was arrested on a criminal complaint June 5, and court papers in his case indicate that he has been discussing a plea deal with prosecutors, though they provide no details.
Mr. Papanicolaou’s lawyer, Paul Schoeman, declined to comment.
According to an F.B.I. affidavit, Mr. Papanicolaou came to the attention of authorities as part of a pay-to-play scheme that has engulfed the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development since Wendell B. Walters, a former assistant commissioner, pleaded guilty to bribery and corruption charges.
The government claimed that Mr. Papanicolaou persuaded a travel agency to rebate $12,390 in charges that the assistant commissioner put on his American Express card for a Greek honeymoon in September 2007, so that Mr. Papanicolaou could pick up the tab.
Grimm's Democratic opponent in Mark Murphy, a fourth generation Staten Islander whose dad was the congressman from the district when I was a kid. Mark was added to the DCCC's Red-to-Blue program and his race is rated as a must win for the Democrats if they're going to win back the House. Murphy blasted Grimm once the reports hit the New York media yesterday:
“Day after day, we read about yet another criminal indictment from someone with whom Congressman Grimm has a close financial relationship. This time, it’s Peter Papanicolau, who paid thousands of dollars to cover some of Congressman Grimm’s overseas travels. Congressman Grimm's pattern of corruption and abuse is shocking even by Washington's standards. Given his history of hiding from the truth, it is not surprising that Congressman Grimm refuses to discuss the nature of his relationship with Mr. Papanicolau, or that he conveniently forgot to disclose the travel until his friend and ally was arrested for an extensive pattern of bribery.
“With the Congressman on an extended vacation, he has plenty of time to be honest with voters and put an end to the lies and deceit. If he refuses to address the latest revelations about his shady relationships and unethical behavior, he will continue to give voters reasons to think he is fundamentally unfit to serve in Congress, where no one will take him seriously. The people Staten Island and Brooklyn demand honest and representation."