An Inwood woman who twice denied donating $2,000 to Mayor Adams’ 2021 campaign — in spite of campaign finance records that state otherwise — changed her story early Monday morning, hours after the Daily News reported on the initial discrepancy.
Mayra Gonzalez, who’s listed in city Campaign Finance Board records as making a $2,000 donation in July 2021, responded “no” when first asked by The News this summer whether she made the donation and backed up that claim by also stating she doesn’t give “political donations” as a rule.
Days later, in August, Gonzalez doubled down during a conversation among herself, her husband and a reporter from The News, reiterating at the time that: “we don’t donate to campaigns.”
But Monday — just hours after The News reported online that law enforcement and election watchdogs have taken an interest in the discrepancy between public records and her initial statements, as well as other donations to Adams — Gonzalez did an about-face, saying in a 1:40 a.m. email that she did in fact make the contribution.
“I went back and checked my credit card statements and found I did make that $2,000.00 contribution,” she wrote. “What I do with my money is my right.”
According to campaign finance records, Gonzalez is employed as an office manager for Academy Medical Care in Inwood, an entity helmed by Dr. Ramon Tallaj, who is also chairman of SOMOS Community Care.
In 2021, SOMOS inked a $100 million contract with the city. Tallaj, who served on Adams’ 2021 transition committee, has not responded directly to messages from The News. A spokeswoman for Tallaj could not say for certain Monday whether or not Tallaj asked Gonzalez to make the donation to Adams.
Gonzalez’s donation is one of three The News examined in a recent story. The other two are listed as being from Cosmin Zamboni and Eugene Gorman. Both men said they didn’t recall making the donations, even though they’re listed as being relatively large amounts — $5,000 and $5,100, respectively.
The News’ examination of those donations — and the conflicting statements about them — began days after an indictment unsealed in July alleged that six individuals, including a retired NYPD inspector who’s friendly with Adams, donated to the mayor in the names of others to unlawfully increase the amount of money that went to his campaign through the city’s Matching Funds Program.
Neither Adams nor anyone working for his campaign are implicated in the alleged straw donor scheme, which is being prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
Asked about the three donations identified by the News, Vito Pitta, a lawyer for Adams’ campaign, said “the campaign followed every rule and best practice” in vetting the contributions.
According to the law enforcement and elections sources who spoke to The News, the Gonzalez, Zamboni and Gorman donations raise red flags for several reasons.
Aside from the fact that their statements conflict with the public record of donations listed under their names, they all involve people with little track record of participating in campaigns or even voting.
All three individuals also have some sort of connection to people associated with Adams or the campaign, though none appear to have direct ties to the mayor.
The law enforcement and elections watchdogs who spoke to The News did not name Adams as a target in anything having to do with the Gonzalez, Zamboni and Gorman donations.
Gonzalez’s lawyer, Philip Kuszel, sent an email 20 minutes after Gonzalez sent hers, describing The News’ pursuit of clarity in the situation as “improper.” But he would not say who, if anyone else, had access to Gonzalez’s credit card, or whether the donation was made with a personal card or one she has access to use.
Instead, he said his email was not “an invite to engage in any conversation” and suggested that the timing of the communications from himself and Gonzalez were not in response to The News’ reporting.