Well at least there's one upside for MMA fans in the battle to legalize their favorite combat sport in the state of New York. While legal MMA may be no closer to being a reality than ever before, the process of dumping money and lobbying efforts into the state to sway political influence has apparently made MMA legalization ripe bait for an FBI sting on corrupt politicians. Or, one corrupt politician anyway.
Halfmoon Town Supervisor and Saratoga County Board of Supervisors member Melinda Wormuth recently plead guilty to receiving $5,500 in bribes between April and October of 2013, from an FBI officer posing as a "Las Vegas-based backer" looking to influence New York's pro-MMA lobbying efforts. Timesunion reports that, for her "consulting fees" Wormuth wrote several letters using official letterheads to various NY state politicians, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. According to the FBI, she also "intended to set up a lunch meeting with the assistant to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for the purpose of discussing support for MMA."
Of course, in the time since her arrest, Silver himself has been arrested and charged with several different and unrelated counts of corruption, stemming from payments received from a law firm specializing in real estate taxation. While Silver awaits a trail on his corruption charges, Wormuth has already guilty to lying to federal agents and using her government position to extort bribes. She could potentially face as much as 12 months in prison for her crimes, but for the moment, it's expected that she'll have to forfeit those earnings and pay an additional $7,500 in fines as well as a guilty plea to a state larceny charge.
Prosecuting Attorney Richard S. Hartunian told timesunion, "This is yet another instance of an elected official who put her own interest ahead of the public's. That is unacceptable at any level of government, whether in our state Capitol or in the counties and towns within the Northern District of New York."
Along with the FBI sting, Wormuth has also been accused of using campaign money for personal expenses and faces felony charges in Saratoga County Court based on those charges. The sting itself was triggered by a number of suspicious dealings by Wormuth in relation to her political position including property sales and large financial transactions to private accounts.