kruger ny mag

					20 n e w y o r k | m o n t h 0 – 0 0 , 2 0 1 2
 of CANARsIe
  The GoThIC
    sAGA of
  BRooKL  yN
  KRuGeR, A
 who Loved A
    ANd hIs
   fAmIL so
    muCh he
    To seLL
hIs INfLueNCe
  foR Them.        By
C                 arl kruger was crying. He removed his
gold-rimmed glasses and rubbed his fingers at his tears. A
storm had come on, and to escape the torrents of rain, we’d
ducked under an overhang at the City Clerk’s Office in down-
town Manhattan. It was only a short walk from the federal
courthouse where Kruger was facing corruption charges that
ended his ascent as an Albany power broker and could possibly
send him to prison for the rest of his life.
   The charges against Kruger were the                    Kruger had been a king of South             cause I wanted to have a direct deposit on
culmination of a lengthy federal investi-              Brooklyn. From the humblest of begin-          my Social Security check into it … Still
gation: FBI agents tapped 30,000 of the                nings, the senator had turned his district     don’t have any money.”
state senator’s phone calls, collected over            office into a kind of one-stop shop for free      Brownsville, the Brooklyn neighbor-
100,000 documents, and snapped sur-                    constituent services like mammograms           hood where he was born, is famous for its
veillance shots of his every move.                     and flu shots. He artfully leveraged his       poverty and gangs—not an easy neigh-
   Kruger’s own indictment wasn’t the rea-             ability to provide for Main Street into        borhood to grow up in, and especially dif-
son he couldn’t stop crying, however. The              enormous power in Albany. He was a             ficult knowing you were unwanted as a
tears, he told me, were over the indictment            master tactician who was feared, not           child. Kruger’s mother, Irene Leibowitz,
of Michael Turano, a gynecologist who had              loved, and was appointed in 2009 to serve      was not proud to tell young Carl that she’d
been a surrogate son to Kruger since he was            as chairman of the Legislature’s Senate        given him up for adoption. She worked in
a young man and, over the years, according             Finance Committee, one of that body’s          a factory that made hats. Her job was to
to the Feds, had become the state senator’s            most powerful posts—all this with little       place feathers in the brim. Her pay was $5
muse. After listening to all those tapped              more than a high-school education.             a week, Kruger said.
calls, the Feds described Kruger’s relation-              He choked back his tears and boasted           Until Kruger arrived, his mother’s life
ship with Turano as “particularly close,” one          about his rise with pride. “If you were to     had been a series of tragedies. Kruger’s
in which “they relied on and supported one             take my life and bottle it, and drink what     grandfather was killed during a labor dis-
another,” and noted that both men spoke                was inside that bottle, it would be like a     pute in 1910, the same year his mother
nearly every day, sometimes in “baby talk.”            cough medicine,” he told me. “It wouldn’t      was born. His grandmother was a janitor
   The cooing, however, wasn’t all that the            taste very good, but it’d be good for you.”    who died after fracturing a hip, leaving
FBI found. Over the past four years, the                  The bottle was empty now. In late De-       sisters and brothers to raise his mother,
Feds had tallied the more than $1 million in           cember, he pleaded guilty, as did Turano,      then 10 years old.
bribes that had gone from lobbyists and de-            to engineering yet another Albany cor-            Irene’s first husband, George Kruger,
velopers friendly with Kruger into bank ac-            ruption racket.                                an auctioneer, struggled with alcoholism.
counts Turano controlled. The bribe money                 “My world is over,” Kruger told me. “I’m    Irene tried for years to conceive, and she
was used as a kind of allowance for Turano,            frightened of the future. Just frightened.     thought that adopting a child would per-
who used it to pay down his Bloomingdale’s             And that’s very hard for me to say, because    haps persuade George to give up his
credit card, as well as to pay for the lease to        I was always the guy that you came to to       drinking. So they adopted a baby girl,
his brother Gerard Turano’s Bentley and                sort out your problems, then sweep up the      Marlene. Soon after, George died in the
renovations to 139 Bassett Avenue, a garish            floor and leave. Now my floor is swept up,     street of a heart attack. He was 44.
mansion on the waterfront in South Brook-              and I’m part of the sweepings.”                   Irene struggled as a widow. Living on
lyn that he and his family had purchased.                                                             welfare in a walk-up, she dated a man
   Despite directing where his bribe mon-              KRuGeR wAs BACK where he started—              named Abe Tack, whose family owned
ey went, Kruger never spent it or saved it.            at the bottom, broke. “To this day, I still    real estate in the neighborhood, and be-
It was all for the Turanos, a family he had            don’t have any money,” he said. “I took a      came pregnant with Carl. But Tack had
adopted as his own. Kruger seemed to live              loan on my pension to pay off my credit-       no interest in marrying her and quickly
his life for them.                                     card debt. I was just denied a Visa be-        disappeared. With abortions risky and

22 n e w y o r k | j a n u a r y 1 6 – 2 3 , 2 0 1 2
                                                                                                                                                                                                    costly at the time, Irene felt she had no                                      IN CANARsIe, all roads to power led
                                                                                                                                                                                                    choice but to arrange an adoption.                                             through the Thomas Jefferson Demo-
                                                                                                                                                                                                       After he was born, Carl was later told,                                     cratic Club. Located in a barn-looking
                                                                                                                                                                                                    he was taken to his new family in a card-                                      building on a quiet block, “the T,” as mem-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    board box, and an adoption official went                                       bers call it, is arguably the most powerful
                                                                                                                                                                                                    over his health and family history. But                                        political club in the state.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    after the presentation, young Carl’s ad-                                          “There were all these big shots,” Kruger
                                                                                                                                                                                                    opted family decided not to take him. The                                      said about the time he first walked in.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    official had no choice but to take the baby                                    Stanley Fink, who became Speaker of the
                                                                                                                                                                                                    back to his mother.                                                            Assembly, was a member; so was Meade
                                                                                                                                                                                                       “So here I am,” Kruger said.                                                Esposito, the former bail bondsman and
                                                                                                                                                                                                       He was rubbing his runny nose with a                                        political boss of Brooklyn. Esposito was
                                                                                                                                                                                                    paper towel. He sat in the conference                                          such a kingmaker that he was credited
                                                                                                                                                                                                    room along with his lawyer, Ben Brafman,                                       with swinging the ’77 mayoral election in
                                                                                                                                                                                                    composed himself, and told me his per-                                         Ed Koch’s favor, and once bragged that he
                                                                                                                                                                                                    sonal myth, now a tragedy. “I take on the                                      was so powerful that he’d “made” 42 judg-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    impossible mission,” he said. “Maybe it         Kruger was infatuated with     es. Short, stocky, never seen without a ci-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    was an impossible mission for me to            gynecologist Michael Turano.    gar or cigarette, Esposito had a weapon in
                                                                                                                                                                                                    achieve what I did in life. Maybe I be-                                        winning the wars in Brooklyn politics—a
                                                                                                                                                                                                    longed in that cardboard box.”                                                 heavy, gruff, and inspiring assemblyman
                                                                                                                                                                                                       Irene practically forbade young Carl to                                     named Tony Genovesi.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    play with kids his age. She walked him to                                         “There was an upstairs and a down-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    school; brought him lunch, which he ate                                        stairs,” Kruger said. “All these big shots
                                                                                                                                                                                                    in the hall with her and not the cafeteria                                     were upstairs, and I was certainly
                                                                                                                                                                                                    with the other boys; picked him up from                                        downstairs.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                    school to give him his Hebrew-school                                              Kruger wanted to get upstairs, and swift-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    books. Kruger often wondered if it was his                                     ly. When local state senator Howard Bab-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    mother’s guilt—giving him up—that                                              bush was indicted for allegedly abusing
p h oto g r a p h s : p r e v i o u s s p r e a d, b rya n s m i t h / z u m a p r e s s. co m ; t h i s pag e, e m i ly b e r l / n e w yo r k t i m e s / r e d u x ( d o r ot h y t u r a n o)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    made her so protective.                                                        taxpayer dollars, Kruger voiced an interest
                                                                                                                                                                                                       “She clung to me very, very much,” he                                       in running for his seat, a move that was
                                                                                                                                                                                                    said. “We had a very, very close                                               widely perceived as overly aggressive, con-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    relationship.”                                                                 sidering that Babbush was a beloved mem-
                                                                                                                                                                                                       He grew up poor. For Kruger’s bar                                           ber of the T. Eventually Kruger backed
                                                                                                                                                                                                    mitzvah, he received a pound of honey                                          down, but many became wary of him and
                                                                                                                                                                                                    cake, a pound of sponge cake, and a bottle                                     wondered where such ambition came from.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    of schnapps. During winter, the heat                                              By the early seventies, Kruger was a
                                                                                                                                                                                                    would go out in the apartment and the         Gerard Turano appeared angry     neighborhood activist. He’d legally
                                                                                                                                                                                                    water in their toilet bowl would freeze.       about his brother and Kruger.   changed his name from Tack to Kruger,
                                                                                                                                                                                                       Irene tried to reunite young Carl with                                      and he and his mother and stepsister
                                                                                                                                                                                                    his father. When she learned that Abe                                          cobbled together their savings to pur-
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Tack was living in Flatbush, she took Carl                                     chase a house on Avenue L with a small
                                                                                                                                                                                                    to his building on the bus. He remembers                                       yard out front. He and his mother were
                                                                                                                                                                                                    seeing the tennis court in front, a sign                                       concerned about the neighborhood, and
                                                                                                                                                                                                    that his father was well off. His mother                                       they co-formed a civic association that
                                                                                                                                                                                                    rang the bell, but Tack didn’t answer. His                                     met in diners and bowling alleys. Taking
                                                                                                                                                                                                    apartment was on the ground floor, so                                          on quality-of-life issues made Kruger feel
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Irene walked over to a window and picked                                       worthy. It also got him out of the house.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    up Carl so he could look in—maybe hop-                                            “I was looking for something other
                                                                                                                                                                                                    ing that Tack would see his son and want                                       than tragedy,” he said.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    to support him. In the window, Carl did                                           His energy caught the attention of City
                                                                                                                                                                                                    not see his father—just people milling                                         Councilman Herb Berman, who hired
                                                                                                                                                                                                    about, perhaps his other family.                                               Kruger to be his chief of staff, and later
                                                                                                                                                                                                       After high school, Kruger found work                                        Assemblyman Genovesi, who saw that
                                                                                                                                                                                                    in the computer department at Marine                                           Kruger could organize people and run
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Midland Bank, earning $72 a week. At                                           ground operations in Assembly races.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    night, when he was coming home on the                                             Meanwhile, Kruger’s mother got sick. He
                                                                                                                                                                                                    sketchy streets of Brownsville, his mother       Matriarch and Brooklyn        came home one day and found her on the
                                                                                                                                                                                                    would open the window and, wearing a             macher Dottie Turano.         floor in a pool of blood. He tried to pick her
                                                                                                                                                                                                    coat over her shoulders and a handker-                                         up; he couldn’t move her. He arranged the
                                                                                                                                                                                                    chief to cover her head, watch for him.                                        chairs in their house into a kind of line so
                                                                                                                                                                                                    One day, she started to scream. Carl                                           he could slide her out the front door to his
                                                                                                                                                                                                    turned around—two men were on him.                                             car and drive her to the ER.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    They threw him down some marble stairs.                                           She was diagnosed with liver disease.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    After that, the Krugers moved near Ca-                                         Kruger moved into the hospital with her
                                                                                                                                                                                                    narsie, and Carl got into politics.                                            and slept in the intensive-care waiting

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   january 16–23, 2012 | new york            23
room. “Ninety-two days later, my mother                   Outside the community board, the              “I love the Turano family, and the Tura-
was dead, and with that, a piece of me                 Krugers would run into the Turanos at          no family loves me,” Kruger said.
too,” he said. Kruger was in the hospital so           the diner on Saturday nights. “And life
long that when it came time to pay the bill            just gels together,” Kruger said.              ALL The LovING-KINdNess Kruger
for parking his car in the garage, the fee                And splits apart. The marriage between      showed to the Turanos had an opposite.
was more than his ’68 Olds was worth.                  Dottie and her husband was starting to         “There’s some Jekyll and Hyde there,”
    Back home, Kruger did not clean out                fracture. He didn’t like that she was          said Frank Seddio, a former assembly-
his mother’s room. He left it as if she were           spending so much of her time with Kruger       man who has known Kruger for four de-
alive, the possessions of an old lady—                 and at the T. Eventually they filed for di-    cades and looked on as Kruger earned a
books, slippers, robes—frozen in time. He              vorce. Later, the ex-husband thought           reputation in Albany for ruthlessness.
installed a bench by her grave at Beth Da-             Kruger was making a move for his family.       While elderly constituents came to de-
vid Cemetery in Long Island, a perch for               Dottie and Kruger claimed that her ex          pend on Kruger and his staff for services,
sitting and pondering during his lengthy               wanted to leave her and her boys. And like     it’s hard to find a colleague who has any-
Sunday visits.                                         he’d done so many times before, Kruger         thing good to say about him. One law-
    “I was not only her caregiver,” he said.           saw an opportunity where he could be of        maker who has known Kruger for de-
“She was my friend.”                                   help. He stepped in.                           cades said he was surprised to learn
    Her death left him alone with Marlene,                He micromanaged their careers. He           Kruger was capable of displaying emo-
who was suffering. “My sister was so drunk             helped them get scholarships and into          tion. “The Carl Kruger I know does not
and so pilled out that she didn’t even know            medical school. He encouraged them to          cry,” the lawmaker said. “The Carl Kru-
where she was or what she was doing,” he               specialize in gynecology. When Michael         ger I know is stone cold.” Said another
said. “At one point, she had like thirteen             graduated from medical school, he threw        lawmaker: “One character flaw that most
seizures in one day that basically cooked              a party so big it made the local paper, the    politicians have is that we go into office
her brain. I knew something had to be done             Canarsie Courier. Once the Turanos             because we feel the need to be liked. Carl
so she wouldn’t kill herself. She was doing            opened offices in Brooklyn and Manhat-         feels the need to be feared.”
all kinds of shit to get whatever she need-            tan, Kruger treated the joint practice as if       Over the years, Kruger managed to iso-
ed.” Kruger did what he could: rehab, meet-            it were a Jefferson Club political cam-        late himself from those he was once close
ings. “I was her tormentor. I was her jailer           paign. He targeted potential clients as if     to. While members of the Jefferson Club
… This was Carl’s new mission in life: to              they were undecided voters. He sent out        still carried his petitions—after all, as Sen-
rehabilitate my sister,” he said, speaking of          direct mail to 150,000 women.                  ate Finance chair, he had been the most
himself in the third person.                              In his way, Kruger was the ultimate         powerful official in South Brooklyn—Kru-
    The mission to live for others did not             doting parent, just like his mother. When      ger rarely went into the club anymore.
stop with Marlene. “I don’t touch the lives            the Feds were watching him, they noticed           Some old hands tell the cancer story. In
of somebody,” he said. “I become part of               that Kruger brought the Turanos break-         1980, Kruger was indicted with another
their lives, part of their very being. Maybe           fast nearly every morning. When they           civic booster for allegedly extorting mon-
it’s good, maybe it’s bad.”                            went on trips, he bought them travel-size      ey from a local builder, a Holocaust survi-
                                                       snacks. When Michael was working late,         vor, and his partner. Before the trial, Kru-
foR A mAN LIKe CARL KRuGeR to                          Kruger picked him up at the hospital to        ger claimed he’d been diagnosed with
meet a woman like Dottie Turano was un-                give him rides home.                           cancer. Seddio remembers driving Kruger
avoidable. “She was president of every                    Kruger wouldn’t admit or deny he had        to the hospital with operatives from the
parent association at the schools,” Kruger             a romantic relationship with Turano.           Jefferson Club and waiting in the car for
said. She could have run for office. She               Nor would Turano. It’s a question they         Kruger to come out after meeting with his
had the gift he didn’t have. “When she                 refused to answer.                             doctor. At trial, the charges against Kru-
came into a room, there was laughter.                                                                 ger were dropped, as, apparently, were
Like now that there’s tears, then there was                                                           Kruger’s cancer treatments. Some
laughter,” Kruger said.                                                                               thought he invented the sickness, perhaps
   Her energy was an asset. At the time,                                                              to drum up sympathy from friends and
Kruger was working for the local commu-                                                               colleagues at the Club.
nity board, and he helped Dottie get a job                                                                “We were pretty stupid to believe him,”
there as youth coordinator. She also came                                                             said an operative who worked with Kru-
to meetings at the T, to hobnob with                                                                  ger in the old days. “You had to believe in
Kruger and the big shots there. Around                                                                the power of Saint Christopher to believe
election time, Dottie brought her two                                                                 that cancer could be cured that quickly.”
sons, Michael and Gerard, to help with                                                                    Kruger disputed the story, saying he
campaigning. With a mother as PTA                                                                     never had cancer, never claimed to, and
president, the Turano boys perhaps had
no choice but to become overachievers. At               wheN he weNT                                  suggested those telling it have vendettas
                                                                                                      against him. Or don’t like him. “Carl is a
South Shore High School, Michael Tura-                  INTo poLITICs,                                guy that doesn’t follow the flock,” said
no, class of ’79, was chairman of the ex-
ecutive council. Two years behind him                  “I wAs LooKING                                 Seddio. “He does not go out for popular-
                                                                                                      ity. He goes out for what he thinks is right.
was Gerard, the class president.
                                                        foR someThING                                 The problem is, he’s innately nasty. He

                                                        oTheR ThAN
   Kruger got close to the Turano family.                                                             can be a great friend or a terrible enemy.”
Dottie was working at the board with Mar-                                                                 In politics, achieving power doesn’t al-
lene, whom Kruger had also helped get
hired. “Dottie became like Marlene’s surro-
                                                        TRAGedy,”                                     ways mean being a nice and dependable

                                                        KRuGeR sAId.
                                                                                                      guy. Kruger studied under one of the
gate mother,” Kruger said. “It was wonderful.”                                                        party’s most beloved practitioners, Tony

24 n e w y o r k | j a n u a r y 1 6 – 2 3 , 2 0 1 2
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      From left, Michael Turano arriving
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               at court last month; the Turanos’ waterfront
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           mansion in Mill Basin, Brooklyn.

                                                                                                                                                             Genovesi, who would come to regret             Kruger’s early years in the Senate. “I’ve       bathroom steam system. An arcade room
                                                                                                                                                             helping push Kruger into office.               known Carl for over 30 years and never          reportedly had a gumball machine, while
                                                                                                                                                                In 1994, a seat opened up. Genovesi         had lunch or dinner with him.”                  another parlor featured an old-fashioned
                                                                                                                                                             lobbied party elders to put Kruger on the                                                      lunch counter with a soda fountain.
                                                                                                                                                             ballot. The race was a farce. Turnout for      IN ALBANy, KRuGeR spent his free time              Outside, it’s just as ostentatious. Along
                                                                                                                                                             the special election was an abysmal 2.5        wandering the aisles of Home Depot,             the driveway are four flagpoles flying
p h oto g r a p h s : f r o m l e f t, b rya n s m i t h / z u m a p r e s s. co m ; m i c h a e l k i r by s m i t h / n e w yo r k t i m e s / r e d u x

                                                                                                                                                             percent. Kruger collected only 3,044           looking for things to help fix up 139 Bas-      American flags; among the shrubs, sculp-
                                                                                                                                                             votes for the win and started making the       sett Avenue, the Turanos’ enormous wa-          tures of dolphins swim and dive in mid-
                                                                                                                                                             commute to Albany.                             terfront mansion in South Brooklyn.             air; seven sculptures of young boys play
                                                                                                                                                                Less than a month after Kruger took         While their Mill Basin neighborhood is          around a fountain, under the watch of
                                                                                                                                                             office, a major issue for Genovesi was         dotted with McMansions, the home the            nun-looking statues nearby.
                                                                                                                                                             coming up for a vote. Genovesi had been        Turanos purchased beats them all. From             The place at 139 Bassett was some-
                                                                                                                                                             such a staunch opponent of the death           the street, it looks like a cruise ship, with   thing else besides a dream house—a
                                                                                                                                                             penalty that his office was once picketed.     many stories, balconies, railings, glass        money pit. On wiretaps, Kruger is over-
                                                                                                                                                             In Albany, Genovesi expected that Kruger       bricks. It’s a legendary property—its for-      heard chiding Michael Turano about
                                                                                                                                                             would vote with him. After all, Genovesi       mer owner was Anthony Casso, a Luc-             making costly purchases. In one conver-
                                                                                                                                                             had been instrumental in Kruger’s career,      chese-family underboss who was known            sation, Kruger talks as a parent might to
                                                                                                                                                             and Kruger’s vote was crucial.                 as “Gaspipe” and once proclaimed a              a spoiled child, telling Turano that he
                                                                                                                                                                Kruger agonized. Many of his constitu-      “homicidal maniac.” Among dozens of             cannot buy a light fixture that costs
                                                                                                                                                             ents were vocal in their support for the       other murders, Casso even ordered the hit       $15,000.
                                                                                                                                                             death penalty. And centrist Democrats          of the house’s architect.                          I asked Kruger if the kickback scheme
                                                                                                                                                             were supporting it. Many also suspected           Where some might see ghosts at 139           he devised was really a complicated way
                                                                                                                                                             that Kruger was looking for a way to pro-      Bassett, the Turanos saw their dream            of keeping Michael and the rest of the
                                                                                                                                                             claim his independence from Genovesi.          house. Michael and Gerard were now earn-        Turanos happy. If they couldn’t rely on
                                                                                                                                                             In the end, Kruger decided to vote against     ing good incomes as gynecologists, and          him any longer to solve their problems,
                                                                                                                                                             his mentor. The next day, Genovesi             they took out a hefty mortgage to cover the     they might push him away.
                                                                                                                                                             walked into the Senate chamber and             nearly $1 million purchase price, a steal          “It’s accurate that it’s complicated,” Kru-
                                                                                                                                                             waited until the vote was called.              considering the waterfront home has             ger said. “It’s so complicated that you don’t
                                                                                                                                                                “I want you to look at me while you fuck    roughly 7,000 square feet. The Turano           sort it out. I did what I did, and it was wrong,
                                                                                                                                                             me,” Genovesi told him.                        brothers also took out a loan to cover the      and I will suffer the consequences.”
                                                                                                                                                                As a freshmen senator, Kruger was ex-       expected $500,000-plus in renovations.
                                                                                                                                                             pected to befriend other Democrats. In-           Kruger oversaw the renovation of the         wheN The feds started watching him,
                                                                                                                                                             stead, he kept to himself. “Socially, he’s a   house, which was fully tricked out. The         Kruger had reached the upper echelons of
                                                                                                                                                             very strange cat,” said Marty Connor, who      New York Times found plans for a snow-          Albany’s ruling class. But his seat was sur-
                                                                                                                                                             ran the Democratic conference during           melting system for the driveway and a           prisingly precari- (Continued on page 113)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            january 16–23, 2012 | new york              25
kruger (Continued from page 25)                     The side business began to flourish.            into Kruger in the elevator. Kruger had a
                                                 Soon, a developer sent Olympian checks             grumpy, dour look on his face, and the law-
ous. Back in 2002, Senate Republicans            for nearly half a million dollars in consult-      maker asked him about it.
planned to redraw the district lines, and        ing fees for, in part, securing space in a pro-      Kruger shook his head. “You don’t know
it was almost certain that Kruger would          posed local mall. But it was a questionable        what my life is like,” he said.
lose his seat. Kruger then appeared to cut       setup, especially to the Feds, who began to
a deal with the Republicans to change the        discover how entwined Kruger was with              KRuGeR ANd mIChAeL TuRANo will
lines in such a way that his career would        the business. After subpoenaing bank re-           be sentenced in late April. The former sen-
be extended; in turn, Kruger made the            cords, the Feds followed the numbers and           ator faces as many as 50 years in prison, but
unusual move of supporting a Republican          discovered that lobbyists with whom Kru-           it’s unlikely the judge will sentence him to
in a tight race. Kruger became a GOP ally,       ger was close were sending Michael Turano          more than ten years. Turano faces as many
and years later he made history by be-           hundreds of thousands of dollars. In es-           as five years in prison. As part of the guilty
coming the first minority-party legislator       sence, Kruger was using Olympian and               plea, Kruger and Turano arranged the deal
to be appointed a committee chair by the         Turano as a kind of bagman for his bribe           in such a way that the Feds agreed not to
ruling party.                                    money and letting Turano spend what he             prosecute Turano for failing to file taxes on
   Kruger had learned he could gain pow-         pleased. The Feds listened to the two dis-         the bribe payments he collected. It was the
er by leveraging his own Democrats               cuss what envelopes had come in.                   ultimate gesture: a father taking the fall for
against his new Republican friends. His             “I got the mail, nothing,” Turano told          his son.
mastery of the divide-and-conquer game           Kruger in one wiretap.                                 In his lawyer Brafman’s office, I asked
culminated in 2008, when the Democrats              “I told him that,” Kruger said. “He said,       Kruger once again why he engaged in such
were poised to win back the majority. Be-        should be.”                                        a blatant kickback scheme, knowing as he
fore the confetti had dropped, Kruger al-           Kruger was suspicious he was being              did that the Feds had been investigating so
lied himself with a rebel faction of Bronx       watched. The Feds had been after several           many Albany pols recently.
senators. Dubbed the “Three Amigos,”             lawmakers in Albany for all types of crimi-            Brafman objected to the question: “We
Kruger and the gang placed the entire            nal shenanigans. After a lobbyist sent him         don’t know,” he said. “He violated the law,
Democratic majority in jeopardy by               an e-mail, Kruger called, paranoid.                he submitted it, he’s accepted responsibili-
threatening to vote for a Republican lead-          “The e-mails … I mean … no good,” Kru-          ty. I think it would take years of therapy to
er, then hustling the Democratic leader-         ger said. “I thought we were anti-e-mails?”        figure out where the compass went off its
ship for top posts.                                 “I thought it was innocuous,” the lobbyist      course. I don’t know how much further be-
   Back at the T in Canarsie, members            replied.                                           yond that it gets. We’ve talked about this for
loathed Kruger for his lack of party loyalty        “All e-mails are never innocuous,” Kruger       months and months.”
yet admired his cunning. “To watch Carl          said, “even the weather report.”                       “There’s no one day,” Kruger said.
maneuver in politics is like stepping into          On Bassett Avenue, the Feds watched             “There’s no one incident.”
Picasso’s studio and watching him paint,”        Kruger’s empty Cadillac as it was parked               “There’s no one moment you decide
one member said. “He puts himself in a           outside the Turano home and listened as            you’re going to become a corrupt politi-
position to put himself in position.”            tensions in his extended family peaked. A          cian,” Brafman said. “It happened, and his
   After he became Finance chair, big            month before Kruger and Michael were               biggest regret was not only violating the
checks started rolling in. When Kruger first     indicted, according to the wiretaps, it was        trust of his constituents but getting Mi-
started as a state senator, his campaign ac-     revealed that Kruger had once told Gerard          chael involved in this horror show. I don’t
count was a piddling one, with a balance of      that he’d been infatuated with his brother         want him to wax philosophic now on why
only a few thousand dollars. In 2010, he         since they met. As Michael recalled the            good people commit crimes.”
filed statements that wowed other Albany         conversation to Kruger, Kruger told Ge-
pols. Here was a senator without any op-         rard how “ ‘from the day I walked into the         The CoNveRsATIoN veeRed, as it
ponents and with a balance in his cam-           T’ … you told me this … ‘you loved me and          often does with Kruger, to his mother,
paign account of $2.5 million.                   you wanted me.’ ”                                  Irene, a woman to whom he spent his en-
   Meanwhile, back at 139 Bassett, the              According to the Feds, Gerard didn’t            tire life proving he was worthy enough to
Turanos struggled with ballooning pay-           take the admission well. It must have been         keep. He still lives in the same house, the
ments on their home. The cost of medi-           fair for Gerard to wonder: Was Kruger us-          same room, with the same bed set and
cal-malpractice insurance had become so          ing himself and his mother Dottie all along        wallpaper. He sleeps only a few hours a
high it was hard for them to support the         to get close to Michael?                           night, and with the light on. He still visits
luxurious lifestyle they’d become accus-            While the Feds proffered only snippets of       his mother’s grave most Sundays.
tomed to. Docked in their backyard was           Kruger’s talks, and without context, Kruger           “Go to the cemetery,” he said. “I want
Special Delivery, a 39-foot yacht, and in        was apparently upset that Gerard was con-          you to read the inscription on the stone. It
the garage a $200,000 Bentley brother            sidering distancing himself from Kruger and        says, ‘Your image will be a guiding light to
Gerard had leased.                               his family. In a conversation with Dottie,         me on the path of virtue, and someday
   Kruger had suggested that the Turano          Kruger sounded like a mob boss discussing          when that pilgrimage is over, we’ll be home
boys get into another field. In 2006, Michael    the departure of a low-level soldier.              together again.’ ”
formed a company called Olympian Strate-            “What, [Gerard’s] going to be the benefi-          I asked him if the reason he went to so
gic Development. In addition to working as       ciary of my work?” Kruger said, according          much effort to make himself invaluable to
doctors, the Turanos considered a second         to the wiretap. “I made life easier for the        the Turano family, to sell his office in or-
career as consultants in real estate. It would   two of you, and he is going to be the benefi-      der to keep them flush, was because he
be easy for them to get hired by local devel-    ciary of it? No, it was supposed to be we          simply wanted to be wanted.
opers. Kruger could help them, and their         were gonna all share in the benefits of it.”          “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe you need
mother happened to be district manager of           In Albany, Kruger seemed more aloof             to come out of a cardboard box. Maybe
the community board.                             than ever. One lawmaker recalled running           then you would figure it out too.”         ■

                                                                                                   january 16–23, 2012 | new york             113

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