New York judge charged in credit union fraud case

October 11, 2019

NEW YORK (AP) — A state court judge was arrested Friday on charges she destroyed evidence and lied to federal agents investigating corruption at a large New York City credit union where she served as a board member.

Justice Sylvia Ash was charged with obstruction of justice in connection with an ongoing corruption investigation at the Municipal Credit Union, described by prosecutors as one of the oldest and largest credit unions in the country with more than 500,000 members and about $3 billion in accounts.

There was no immediate response to a phone message Friday seeking comment from Ash’s attorney.

According to her official website, the 62-year-old Ash was elected to the bench in Brooklyn state court in 2010 and has served on the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. The Office of Court Administration said in a statement Friday that she had been “relieved of her judicial duties.”

Court papers say that Ash, while serving as a board member from 2008 to 2016, “received annually tens of thousands of dollars in reimbursements and other benefits from MCU, including airfare, hotels, food and entertainment expenses for her and a guest to attend conferences domestically and abroad, as well as payment for phone and cable bills, and electronic devices.” The credit union CEO, Kam Wong, kept some of the benefits in place even after Ash resigned, they add.

When federal authorities began investigating the CEO for embezzlement in 2018, Ash signed false documents justifying millions of dollars in payments to the CEO, court papers say. She also deleted text messages and emails and made false statements to investigators, they say.

Ash, “a sitting state court judge, took repeated steps to obstruct a federal investigation into significant financial misconduct at MCU during Ash’s tenure as chair of the board of directors,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

Wong was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison earlier this year after pleading guilty to embezzlement. A former police officer who served on a credit union committee has also been charged with embezzlement and other crimes.