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Net of New York corruption probe expected to snag more fish

Still more indictments are expected in coming weeks as New York City's corruption scandal continues to unfold. The scandal, which emerged one year ago, has resulted in a wide net of investigations, indictments, resignations, and convictions.

On Monday, United States Rep. Mario Biaggi (D) of the Bronx and former Brooklyn Democratic County leader Meade Esposito were charged with bribery, fraud, and conspiracy involving alleged influence to obtain ``favorable treatment'' for a Brooklyn ship-repair company.

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Mr. Biaggi is also charged with obstruction of justice. Both men say they are innocent, and Biaggi says he will not leave his congressional seat.

The scandal encompasses political leaders, elected and appointed officials from all five boroughs of New York. Major indictments have struck at the Democratic organizations in Queens, the Bronx, and now Brooklyn.

Observers say the scandal has greatly affected city government, causing politicians from Mayor Edward Koch on down to move more carefully.

The state legislature, long a foot-dragger in passing ethics laws, has announced an agreement on measures that would mandate fuller financial disclosure of elected officials and some state employees. It would also restrict lawmakers from representing clients before state agencies.

At a news conference on Monday, Edward McDonald, chief of the federal organized crime strike force, indicated that the indictments were ``merely the first step in a very broad-based investigation.''

Bronx District Attorney Mario Merola would not say in an interview last week when the next indictments would be coming down. But one City Hall observer says, ``The season is not quite over yet.''

Thomas Sheer, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York, also said more indictments will follow. ``The federal government has made a commitment to attack corruption,'' Mr. Sheer said Monday.

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A variety of investigations is underway at the federal, state, and city levels. Biaggi is also implicated in investigations into the activities of a Bronx military contractor, Wedtech Corporation.

It has been alleged by former company officials, who have pleaded guilty to larceny charges, that Biaggi received kickbacks from the firm.

Also under investigation in the Wedtech case are Rep. Robert Garcia (D) the Bronx, and Stanley Simon, who resigned as Bronx borough president last week, citing upcoming indictments.

The Wedtech inquiry is a cooperative investigation between US Attorney Rudolph Giuliani in Manhattan and Bronx district attorney Merola.

In addition, Robert Morgenthau, the district attorney for Manhattan, is investigating the alleged involvement of an accountant in suppressing adverse facts about Wedtech when it made a public stock offering.

And the New York Times reports that George Clark, former New York State Republican chairman, has testified before a federal grand jury in the Wedtech case.

Since the scandal broke in the beginning of 1986, there have been a number of convictions and resignations. Former Bronx Democratic leader Stanley Friedman was sentenced last week to 12 years in prison for receiving kickbacks and bribes. He was convicted along with two other former city officials.

Last week a Queens state assembleywoman, Gerdi Lipschutz, resigned her seat to avoid censure for her part in a no-show job scheme.

Also under investigation by prosecutors are a former city transportation commissioner, the former chairman of the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation (another former president has been sentenced to jail and community service work), city controller Harrison Golden, Queens Supreme Court justice Francis Smith, and Bess Myerson, city cultural affairs commissioner.

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