NEW YORK CITY — A former top political consultant to New York’s disgraced ex-comptroller was led off to prison Thursday after a judge sentenced him to at least a year and four months behind bars for his pivotal role in an influence-peddling scandal involving the state pension fund.
Henrt “Hank” Morris, 57, apologized to the people of the state for undermining their faith in government before a Manhattan judge handed down the punishment.
“Words cannot express the depth of my remorse,” he said, his voice and hands shaking as he read a prepared statement.
Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone was unmoved. He sentenced Morris to the maximum allowed under the law, then denied him time to put his affairs in order before going to prison.
“No. It’s time to go,” the judge said.
Morris pleaded guilty in November to securities fraud. He admitted using his connections to former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi and other officials who oversaw New York’s massive pension fund to extract kickbacks from investment firms hoping to manage some of the funds’ assets.
Over just a few years, Morris made $19 million in fees from companies awarded state business by Hevesi’s office. Prosecutors with the state attorney general’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission claimed that firms that refused to play ball were given the cold shoulder, and had a harder time getting their foot in the door.
The scandal enveloped a number of state officials and money managers, including Steven Rattner, the Wall Street financier who helped lead the Obama administration bailout and restructuring of Chrysler and General Motors.