New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said an associate of Henry Morris, a top fund-raiser for a former New York state official, pleaded guilty to securities fraud and is cooperating with the state's probe into corruption surrounding public pensions.
Former Wetherly Capital Group associate Julio Ramirez pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to announce civil charges against him, Cuomo said.
The so-called pay-to-play scheme ensnared Morris, who is accused of taking kickbacks to help investment firms win business from the New York State Common Retirement Fund.
Between 2003 and 2006, Ramirez entered into arrangements with Morris, top political adviser to then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi, to secure investments from the state pension fund for Wetherly clients and others, Cuomo's office said.
An unlicensed intermediary working with a broker-dealer partnered with the chief political operative at the comptroller's office in New York to split profits from corrupt pension fund deals, Cuomo said in a statement.
Cuomo earlier this month expanded a two-year probe, which the SEC has joined, aimed at stamping out corrupt pay-to-play practices in which fund managers provide gifts or campaign donations to win state and local government contracts.
Ramirez has pleaded guilty to charges related to dealings between Morris and Wetherly, a Los Angeles-based placement agent, and fund managers including Dallas-based Aldus Equity Partners.
New York's pension fund sued Aldus last week, charging that it took part in a kickback scheme.
An SEC spokesman did not immediately respond to an e-mail.
(Reporting by Joe Giannone in New York and Anurag Kotoky in Bangalore, Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Tim Dobbyn)