Eric Adams’ former NYPD colleague pleads guilty to orchestrating straw donations

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NEW YORK — A former colleague of New York City Mayor Eric Adams pleaded guilty Monday to orchestrating a straw donor scheme that allegedly funneled tens of thousands of dollars to Adams' 2021 campaign.

Dwayne Montgomery, whose career in the NYPD overlapped Adams', pleaded guilty to one conspiracy charge, according to a copy of the agreement released by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

That accusation was one of several included in the original indictment, released in July, that detailed a brazen scheme to funnel illegal contributions to Adams' run for office with the hope of reaping kickbacks. Neither the mayor nor anyone in his camp have been accused of wrongdoing.

“We allege a deliberate scheme to game the system in a blatant attempt to gain power," Bragg said at the time.

Under the terms of the plea deal, which must be approved by a judge in Manhattan Criminal Court, Montgomery would be discharged provided he complete 200 hours of community service and pay a $500 fine.

Montgomery would also be subject to a year-long ban on hosting political fundraisers, soliciting donations on behalf of any campaign and acting as an intermediary between donors and campaigns.

“I think the DA clearly reported that there was nothing our campaign did that was a part of what was done wrong. I say let the DA handle the situation," Adams said during an unrelated press conference Monday.

Adams went on to describe his team's vetting process during his 2021 campaign, including "spending thousands of dollars on a compliance attorney, who matched signature, who matched information and made sure things were done with the level of scrutiny they deserved. And we returned back tens of thousands of donations that did not follow that muster. And so the campaign did its job.”

Vito Pitta, the campaign’s compliance attorney, said that despite those protective measures, some people still violate the rules.

An attorney for Montgomery did not respond to a request for comment.

As part of his plea deal, Montgomery admitted to conspiring with a number of other individuals to funnel excess contributions to Adams' 2021 campaign through straw donors.

Straw donors, generally speaking, are reimbursed by someone wanting to curry favor with a political candidate by exceeding campaign donation limits.

Montgomery told Bragg's office that on Aug. 14, 2020, he transferred $260 to one of the straw donors, who subsequently gave the same amount to Adams' campaign. Under New York City's public matching system, donations up to $250 from city residents are matched 8-1 with tax dollars, meaning any illicit contribution to the mayor's campaign could be multiplied many times over.

The Campaign Finance Board, which administers the public matching program, declined to comment on the plea agreement.

Montgomery is a retired deputy inspector who overlapped with Adams during the mayor's time at the NYPD. He also appears to be close with other City Hall power brokers. As POLITICO previously reported, Montgomery met with Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks in February 2022.

When the indictment was released over the summer, 2021 campaign representative Evan Thies said: “Montgomery was a colleague of the mayor in the police department whom he knew socially and worked on criminal justice issues with. Dozens of former police officers and criminal justice advocates hosted events for the mayor over the course of the campaign."

The plea deal comes as multiple news outlets, including THE CITY and POLITICO, have identified donors who said they did not actually contribute to Adams' 2021 campaign.

The mayor is also facing a separate federal probe into whether his 2021 campaign colluded with the government of Turkey, an investigation that has included a raid on his former chief fundraiser's house and a dramatic scene in which FBI agents stopped Adams on the street and seized several of his electronic devices.