Former New York congressman and FBI agent Michael Grimm is heading to prison for scamming the government out of taxes in his operation of a Manhattan health food restaurant.
Grimm, a Republican, was sentenced to eight months after having pleaded guilty to one count of helping prepare a false tax return. He had agreed not appeal if he were sentenced to a term of two years and nine months or less.
The punishment marks the downfall of a politician who gained national notoriety after threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony and telling him: “I’ll break you in half, like a boy.”
The former U.S. Marine, who represented Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, was re-elected last year to serve a third two-year term despite facing a 20-count indictment filed against him in what he called a “political witch hunt.” He quit his seat in December after pleading guilty.
“Everyone falls from grace when they get caught committing crimes. Some fall farther than others,” U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn told Grimm as she sentenced him Friday. “Your moral compass, Mr. Grimm, needs some reorientation.”
She ordered Grimm, 45, to surrender to authorities by Sept. 10.
Grimm was accused of hiding as much as $1 million in revenue from the Manhattan restaurant he previously co-owned called Healthalicious, a seller of salads and wraps.
In an impassioned plea to the judge, Grimm asked for leniency, citing his military service including tours of duty in the Gulf War, where he survived an explosion of a Humvee while traveling through enemy minefields.
“I would give this country my blood, and I have,” he told Chen.
As a restaurant owner, he under-reported income and paid workers under the table in cash because “I didn’t want to fail,” he said. “It was unacceptable.” He also said he wasn’t as involved in the operations as he should have been because his father was dying of cancer.
Arguing that that those practices are prevalent throughout the restaurant industry in New York, and that most violators are not punished with jail time, Grimm told the judge: “Just treat me today like any other restaurant owner.”
“The harsh reality is if you open a restaurant in Manhattan and you have delivery boys, you’re going to have people working off the books,” he said.
Prosecutors argued that Grimm, despite having pleaded guilty, was still trying to “shift the blame” for his conduct. “It wasn’t anyone else’s fault,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James Gatta said. “It was Michael Grimm.”
Grimm, a former federal investigator of white-collar crimes who has a law degree, should’ve known better, Chen said.
“All of these things were wrong and Mr. Grimm knew that at the time,” she said.
The case is U.S. v. Grimm, 1:14-cr-00248, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York. (Brooklyn).