Subpoenas for Al Sharpton's aides
By GREG B. SMITH and LARRY McSHANE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Thursday, December 13th 2007
Teams of federal agents swooped down on up to 10 close associates of the Rev. Al Sharpton Wednesday, demanding the flamboyant clergyman's financial records since 2001.
Sharpton's former chief of staff said he was roused at his Harlem home about 6:30 a.m. by two FBI agents who handed him a subpoena to bring the records to a federal grand jury the day after Christmas.
Several employees of Sharpton's National Action Network also got wakeup subpoenas to testify before the Brooklyn panel, the rabble-rousing reverend's lawyer said.
The FBI and IRS are investigating whether Sharpton improperly misstated the amount of money he raised during his 2004 White House run to illegally obtain federal matching funds, a source familiar with the probe said.
Sharpton, although forced to return $100,000 in matching taxpayer funds after an investigation two years ago, denied any wrongdoing at the time.
The feds are also looking into allegations of tax fraud, including whether Sharpton commingled funds from his nonprofit National Action Network with several of his for-profit ventures, the source said.
Lawyer Michael Hardy shrugged off the probe, which sought a vast array of business, political and personal records, as a federal fishing expedition.
"I can't think of a time when the Rev. Sharpton wasn't under investigation," he said.
Sharpton was not among those subpoenaed in the synchronized sweep of friends and employees.
"It was like a sting or a raid," said Carl Redding, who spent eight years as the head of Sharpton's staff. "They converged on everybody."
As many as 10 people were subpoenaed, Redding said. The court papers also sought a wide range of financial records, from invoices of expenses paid by cash to cash receipts to bad debt records from the years 2001 to 2007.
Sharpton's quixotic run for the Democratic presidential nomination has raised questions of financial impropriety - including charges that he spent campaign funds on swanky hotels.
In April 2005, Sharpton denied allegations that he failed to report tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash to the Federal Election Committee.
Sharpton's associates were summoned to testify before the grand jury on the morning after Christmas. The subpoenas additionally called for them to provide the IRS with all financial records from the campaign and a half-dozen Sharpton-related businesses.
Personal finance records from Sharpton and his wife, Kathy, were also sought by investigators.
A Sharpton spokesman said the reverend, who pleaded guilty in 1993 to a misdemeanor for failure to file a tax return, would assist with the probe.
"What I would tell you is that what the National Action Network has done, and will continue to do, is cooperate and comply," said Charlie King, a spokesman for the network.
Redding, a restaurateur, said he was surprised by the subpoena, because he left his position as Sharpton's chief of staff in 1998.
"They wouldn't tell me what the investigation was about," Redding said.
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