Eric Adams (Daily Beast image)

U.S. Investigating Whether Adams Received Illegal Donations From Turkey

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By William K. Rashbaum, Dana Rubinstein and Jeffery C. Mays

NEW YORK (New York Times) — Federal prosecutors and the F.B.I. are conducting a broad public corruption investigation into whether Mayor Eric Adams’s 2021 election campaign conspired with the Turkish government to receive illegal foreign donations, according to a search warrant obtained by the New York Times.

The investigation burst into public view on Thursday, November 2, when federal agents conducted an early-morning raid at the Brooklyn home of the mayor’s chief fund-raiser, Brianna Suggs. Ms. Suggs is a campaign consultant who is deeply entwined with efforts to advance the mayor’s agenda.

Investigators also sought to learn more about the potential involvement of a Brooklyn construction company with ties to Turkey, as well as a small university in Washington, D.C., that also has ties to the country and to Mr. Adams.

According to the search warrant, investigators were also focused on whether the mayor’s campaign kicked back benefits to the construction company’s officials and employees, and to Turkish officials.

The agents seized three iPhones and two laptop computers, along with papers and other evidence, including something agents identified as “manila folder labeled Eric Adams,” seven “contribution card binders” and other materials, according to the documents.

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There was no indication that the investigation was targeting the mayor, and he is not accused of wrongdoing. Yet the raid apparently prompted him to abruptly cancel several meetings scheduled for Thursday morning in Washington, D.C., where he planned to speak with White House officials and members of Congress about the migrant crisis.

Instead, he hurriedly returned to New York “to deal with a matter,” a spokesman for the mayor said.

Appearing at a Día de Muertos celebration at Gracie Mansion on Thursday night, Mr. Adams defended his campaign, saying that he held it “to the highest ethical standards.”

He said he had not been contacted by any law enforcement officials, but pledged to cooperate in any inquiry. Mr. Adams said that he returned from Washington to be “on the ground” to “look at this inquiry” as it unfolded.

The warrant suggested that some of the foreign campaign contributions were made as part of a straw donor scheme, where donations are made in the names of people who did not actually give money.

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Investigators sought evidence to support potential charges that included the theft of federal funds and conspiracy to steal federal funds, wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy, as well as campaign contributions by foreign nationals and conspiracy to make such contributions.

Mr. Adams has boasted of his ties to Turkey, most recently during a flag-raising he hosted for the country in Lower Manhattan last week. The mayor said that there were probably no other mayors in New York City history who had visited Turkey as frequently as he has.

“I think I’m on my sixth or seventh visit,” he said. At least one of those visits happened while he was Brooklyn borough president, when the government of Turkey underwrote the excursion, The Daily News reported.

Ms. Suggs, who could not be reached for comment, is an essential cog in Mr. Adams’s fund-raising machine, which has already raised more than $2.5 million for his 2025 re-election campaign.

A person with knowledge of the raid said agents from one of the public corruption squads in the F.B.I.’s New York office questioned Ms. Suggs during the search of her home.

An F.B.I. spokesman confirmed that “we are at that location carrying out law enforcement action,” referring to Ms. Suggs’s home in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

The agents also served Ms. Suggs with a subpoena directing her to testify before a federal grand jury hearing evidence in Manhattan.

Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan, declined to comment.

The construction company was identified in the warrant, portions of which were obtained by The Times, as KSK Construction Group in Brooklyn. Individuals who listed their employer as KSK donated nearly $14,000 to Mr. Adams’s 2021 campaign, according to campaign finance records. A person who answered the telephone at the company declined to comment.

Charles Kretchmer Lutvak, a spokesman for Mr. Adams, said Ms. Suggs was not an employee of City Hall and referred calls to the mayor’s campaign team.

“The campaign has always held itself to the highest standards,” said Vito Pitta, a lawyer for Mr. Adams’s 2021 and 2025 campaigns. “The campaign will of course comply with any inquiries, as appropriate.”

Mr. Pitta added: “Mayor Adams has not been contacted as part of this inquiry.”

The search warrant sought financial records for Ms. Suggs and any entity controlled or associated with her; documents related to contributions to the mayor’s 2021 campaign; records of travel to Turkey by any employee, officer or associate of the campaign; and documents related to interactions between the campaign and the government of Turkey, “including persons acting at the behest of the Turkish government.”

Investigators specified documents relating to Bay Atlantic University, a tiny Turkish-owned institution that opened in Washington, D.C., in 2014. The following year, Mr. Adams visited one of the school’s sister universities in Istanbul, where he was given various certificates and was told that a scholarship would be created in his name.

The warrant also sought electronic devices, including cellphones, laptops or tablets used by Ms. Suggs.

Ms. Suggs, 25, is the latest in a series of individuals tied to Mr. Adams who have attracted interest from law enforcement, including several connected to the mayor’s fund-raising efforts.

In September, Eric Ulrich, Mr. Adams’s former buildings commissioner and senior adviser, was indicted by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, on 16 felony charges, including counts of conspiracy and bribetaking. Mr. Ulrich, as well as three others indicted at the time, helped organize a 2021 fund-raiser for Mr. Adams.

In July, Mr. Bragg indicted six individuals, including a retired police inspector who once worked and socialized with Mr. Adams, on charges of conspiring to funnel illegal donations to the mayor’s 2021 campaign.

The Department of Investigation is also investigating the role of one of the mayor’s top aides in a violent altercation last month at a migrant center in Manhattan.

Mr. Adams has tried to distance himself from these inquiries, arguing that he had limited insight into the events that precipitated them. But the investigation of such a close and longtime adviser might be harder to keep at arm’s length.

In the past two years, Mr. Adams’s re-election campaign has paid Ms. Suggs nearly $100,000 for fund-raising and campaign consulting services via her company, Suggs Solutions, according to city records.

His first mayoral campaign paid her more than $50,000.

Ms. Suggs has also registered as a lobbyist. State records indicate that the East Broadway Mall, a Chinatown real estate concern, hired Ms. Suggs, via an intermediary, to lobby the mayor’s office and the City Council on its behalf in 2022.

Ms. Suggs worked as an aide to Mr. Adams when he was Brooklyn borough president, and is particularly close with Ingrid Lewis-Martin, who was his deputy at the time and is currently his top adviser.

Ms. Suggs is deeply embedded in outside efforts to advance the mayor’s agenda. A key ally’s political action committee, Striving for a Better New York, which promised to support state candidates aligned with Mr. Adams on policy matters, has paid Ms. Suggs roughly $100,000.

Ms. Suggs also lists the Brooklyn Democratic Party, with which Mr. Adams has close ties, as a client on her LinkedIn page.

Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, the assemblywoman who leads the Brooklyn party, said Ms. Suggs was a volunteer fund-raiser who mainly handled logistics. She said she was surprised to learn of the F.B.I. raid.

“What I know of Brianna Suggs, she’s a bright young lady. I think she’s a very honest person, organized. She’s very mild-mannered, a very professional person,” Ms. Bichotte Hermelyn said. “She knows the rules.”

Mr. Adams’s decision to cancel high-level meetings with senior White House officials about an issue that he has warned will hollow out New York’s budget and destroy the city suggested an unusual level of urgency.

The White House appeared to have been taken by surprise. The mayor’s office called Thursday morning to inform them of the cancellation, a White House aide said.

“I can’t speak to his schedule and why he had to, he could not attend,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary.

The mayor was scheduled to meet with representatives from Congress along with the mayor of Chicago, Brandon Johnson, and the mayor of Denver, Mike Johnston.

At 7:41 a.m. Thursday, Mr. Adams posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, of himself sitting aboard an airplane. He said he was heading to Washington to meet with White House officials and members of the congressional delegation about the migrant crisis, which he described as a “real issue.”

The mayor promised to keep the public updated throughout the day, but after he canceled the meetings, officials at City Hall would not explain why. They said the meetings would be rescheduled.

By 8 a.m. Thursday, around 10 agents could be seen standing on Ms. Suggs’s block, according to a video of the scene taken by a neighbor and viewed by The New York Times. One agent wore a light green tactical vest with the letters “F.B.I.” stamped on the back. Another official could be seen leaving the apartment with a cardboard box.

Ms. Suggs was standing on the stoop with her father as the agents searched her home, according to the neighbor, Christopher Burwell.

“Whatever it is, she must have been tricked into it, because she’s a great woman,” Mr. Burwell said. “I’ve known her all my life.”

Reporting was contributed by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Michael D. Shear, Wesley Parnell, Michael Rothfeld, Rebecca Chao and Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner.

 

 

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