By Nelson King
Sylvia Ash, a Trinidad and Tobago-born justice of Vincentian and Grenadian parentage, of the New York State Supreme Court and former chair of the Board of Directors of Municipal Credit Union (MCU) in New York, was convicted for conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making a false statement to a US federal agent.
Damian Williams, the Jamaican-American United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said two Mondays ago, “These charges arose from a scheme to impede the federal criminal investigation into fraud and corruption at MCU, a non-profit, multibillion-dollar financial institution, including misconduct committed by Kam Wong, the former chief executive officer (CEO), and Joseph Guagliardo, a former New York City Police Department Officer and member of MCU’s Supervisory Committee.”
Wong and Guagliardo were charged separately and previously plead guilty to embezzlement from MCU. Williams said Ash, 64, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and the daughter of the late Rudolph “Fireman” Ash of Kingstown Hill, was convicted after a two-week jury trial before US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 20, 2022 by Judge Kaplan.
Williams said, “As the jury unanimously found, Sylvia Ash took repeated steps, over multiple months, to seek to obstruct the federal criminal investigation into financial misconduct at MCU that took place during Ash’s tenure as chair of the Board of Directors. Obstruction of justice, particularly by a sitting state court judge, is a serious crime, and Ash now faces punishment for her obstruction scheme.”
MCU has status
MCU is a non-profit financial institution headquartered in New York, New York, which is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
MCU is the oldest credit union in New York State and one of the oldest and largest in the country, providing banking services to more than 500,000 members, and with more than US$4 billion in member accounts, each of which is insured for at least US$250,000 by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which is administered by the NCUA.
Membership in MCU is generally available to employees of New York City and its agencies, employees of the federal and New York state governments who work in New York City, and employees of hospitals, nursing homes, and similar facilities located within New York State.
MCU was overseen by a Board of Directors (the Board) and a Supervisory Committee (the Supervisory Committee), each of which was composed of members of MCU, who were not supposed to be compensated.
“As a result of severe deficiencies in the Board’s and the Supervisory Committee’s oversight of the credit union, which came to light in connection with the federal investigation, the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) removed the members of the Supervisory Committee in May 2018 and the Board in June 2018,” Williams said. “Subsequently, DFS appointed NCUA as the conservator for the credit union.”
Ash’s tenure with MCU
Ash is a sitting New York State Supreme Court Justice in Kings County (Brooklyn) and has served as a judge in the New York State court system since about 2006, first as a Kings County Civil Court Judge, and then, starting in 2011, as a Kings County Supreme Court Justice.
In or about January 2016, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York said Ash was appointed as the presiding judge in the Kings County Supreme Court’s Commercial Division.
After the charges in this case were unsealed, he said Ash was suspended from her position.
Ash served on MCU’s Board from in or about May 2008 until on or about Aug. 15, 2016, when she resigned. From in or about May 2015 until her resignation, Ash served as the chair of the Board.
She resigned after a complaint was filed against her by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, arising from a conflict of interest between her position as a state judge and her membership on MCU’s Board, Williams said.
Williams added, “Ash had been instructed to resign from MCU’s Board by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics, which instruction she disregarded.” No report of reimbursements, gifts According to Williams, from at least in or about 2012 through 2016, while serving as an MCU Board member and while Wong was chief executive officer, “Ash 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 both domestically and abroad, annual birthday parties at a minor league baseball stadium, payment for phone and cable bills, and electronic devices.
“Even after her resignation from the Board, Wong continued to provide or cause MCU to provide Ash with benefits, such as Apple devices and sports tickets,” he said. “As a sitting state judge, Ash was required to report both her board service and gifts and benefits she received from any outside sources on an annual state disclosure form.
“But between at least 2012 and 2018, Ash never reported her board service nor any gifts or benefits from MCU,” Williams said.
In January 2018, after Wong, MCU’s then-chief executive officer, had been approached by federal law enforcement agents investigating apparent financial misconduct by Wong, “in an attempt to protect Wong, Ash agreed to and did sign a false and misleading memorandum purporting to explain and justify millions of dollars Wong had received from MCU,” Williams said.
“Wong subsequently provided that false and misleading memorandum to federal agents in an attempt to demonstrate that the millions of dollars had purportedly been orally approved for him to receive by Ash in June 2015, when she was chair of the Board,” he added. “However, in truth, neither Ash nor the Board had approved the payment of those funds.”
Source :The Vincentian