Rosa admits false marriage, forfeits Assembly seat

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Gabriela Rosa. (Azi Paybarah)
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Gabriella Rosa forfeited her seat in the state Assembly on Friday, after pleading guilty to two counts of falsifying information to the federal government prior to her 2012 election in a district in Upper Manhattan.

“I falsely got married with a U.S. citizen … to become a legal alien in this country,” Rosa said in federal court this afternoon. “I married this person and it was not a real marriage.”

Rosa, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, paid a man $8,000 to marry her in 1996, so she could receive her green card, while she was actually in a relationship with another man, the U.S. Attorney's office said in an information statement describing the terms of her plea to felony fraud charges. Rosa divorced her first spouse in 1999, and later married another man.  

The complaint also alleges Rosa failed to disclose the full extent of her assets in a 2009 personal bankruptcy filing, hiding her ownership of a co-op apartment in Manhattan and income earned by her husband, as well as thousands of dollars in political consulting fees she'd earned in the years prior to the bankruptcy. 

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Rosa immediately resigned her Assembly seat and agreed, among other conditions, to never seek public office again. She signed a six-page plea deal with prosecutors today who recommended she serve no more than 18 months in prison, out of a possible 10-year sentence. Rosa is due back in from of Judge Denise Cote at 10 a.m. on Oct. 3.

Outside the courtroom, Rosa stressed that she had not abused her position as an elected official.

"I want the people to really see that I didn’t do anything wrong in terms of my legislative duties and as an elected official," she said. "This is something that happened in my personal life way before I became an elected official, I never abused my position. I never abused my office. And I just want people to understand nobody’s perfect. "

Her attorney was asked how the federal government was prompted to begin its investigation and prove the marriage was fraudulent.

"I think generally they’re investigating a lot of political corruption in this town and maybe stumbled upon this," said the attorney, Matthew Myers. "I can’t speak to their entire investigation but obviously she wasn’t a main target at the start of this investigation."

Asked later if she had agreed to cooperate in a broader investigation, Myers said, "I can’t comment on that."

Rosa was first elected to the Assembly in 2012, boosted by State Senator Adriano Espaillat. Espaillat had occupied the Upper Manhattan seat from 1997 to 2010, before he was elected to the state Senate. Rosa bested the daughter of Guillermo Linares, who won the Assembly seat after Espaillat and unsuccessfully ran a primary against him for the Senate seat in 2012.

Rosa and Espaillat remain close allies, political sources said. Earlier this year, Rosa gleefully clapped as Espaillat was led through the Assembly chamber by colleagues who were trumpeting his campaign to oust longtime congressman Charlie Rangel.

Rosa was an Assembly employee before her election, and prior to that served as chief of staff to New York City Council member Miguel Martinez. He was convicted of pocketing $51,000 in public funds that he garnered through fake invoices and misappropriating $55,000 for nonprofit groups.

Espaillat's former chief of staff, Nelson Castro, was elected to the state Assembly in 2008. He admitted to wearing a wire in office, and abruptly resigned in 2013 as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.