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Assemblymember Ortiz fires staffer arrested for alleged $80k embezzlement

BY VICTOR PORCELLI

State Assembly Assistant Speaker Félix Ortiz fired one of his long-time staffers Friday, one day after the aide was arrested by federal agents for allegedly embezzling over $80,000 in campaign funds.

The staffer’s firing was announced via written statement to a small crowd gathered outside the assemblymember’s office on Friday to call for greater transparency over the missing funds. 

Maruf Alam had worked in Ortiz’s office since 2012, serving as chief of staff at one point, among other roles. Locals said Alam — who was paid about $48,000 in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, according to government data compiled by the nonprofit See Through NY — represented Ortiz at Democratic County Committee meetings. 

Alam is accused of submitting false campaign finance disclosure reports to the New York State Board of Elections and failing to disclose large cash withdrawals from the campaign’s bank account, according to authorities. 

Court documents show that the assemblymember was interviewed by the FBI in March as part of the investigation into Alam, during which Ortiz said the staff member served as treasurer for two campaign accounts.

“Given the circumstances and the seriousness of the charges brought by the United States Attorney, this employee is being terminated effective immediately,” the written statement from Ortiz said. “These are very serious charges. I am personally appalled, hurt and disappointed that an employee would violate my trust. My constituents come first and they deserve to know that public employees are always working on their behalf.”

A small group of residents attempted to enter the assistant speaker’s office after a brief meeting outside calling for more information. The locals were denied entry by an office worker who handed out the written statement instead.

“[Alam] has, for over a decade, been the face of Félix Ortiz, both in his capacity as a State Assemblymember and also in his capacity as leader of the Democratic Party here in Sunset Park,” local Jorge Muñiz said. “The allegations are shocking, and we want answers.”

President of Sunset Park Latino Democrats Claudia Galicia said that Ortiz is responsible as the candidate involved, and that the recent allegations showed he “lacked oversight” of his campaign. 

Galicia called for the Assemblymember to release a statement admitting he was negligent or to resign. Other residents expressed similar sentiments.

“We want to hear from him now about what happened and, going forward, we want him to be transparent and accessible to his constituents,” John Santori, a Sunset Park resident and member of the Kings County Democratic County Committee, said.

Claudia Galicia called for Ortiz to admit negligence over the missing funds or resign.

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