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Opening Statements Held at Councilman Fagen’s Trial

Nassau County Criminal Court in Mineola, where Long Beach City Councilman Mike Fagen is standing trial for stealing unemployment benefits. (Credit: Joe Kellard)
Nassau County Criminal Court in Mineola, where Long Beach City Councilman Mike Fagen is standing trial for stealing unemployment benefits. (Credit: Joe Kellard)
Opening statements in the trial of Long Beach City Councilman Michael Fagen began Tuesday, with the prosecution accusing him of stealing $15,000 in unemployment benefits and his attorney contending that his client is innocent and was set up by his political opponents.

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In Judge Mary Berkowitz’s court in Mineola, prosecutor William Jorgensen told the 14-person jury that Fagen illegally collected unemployment benefits from the state Department of Labor while he worked two jobs, one as a councilman and the other as a salesman for Willow Advisors, a start-up company.

Jorgensen said Fagen committed the crimes he was charged with in 2011 -- 38 counts of first-degree offering of a false instrument for filing, one count of third-degree grand larceny and one count of petit larceny -- between Jan. 1, 2010 and Sept. 19, 2010, during which time he collected unemployment benefits.  

“He knew that they were false,” Jorgenson said of Fagen’s unemployment filings.

He said that Fagen, who started his four-year term as councilman on Jan. 1, 2010, received $19,200 in yearly salary for his work on the council, and that he was paid approximately $5,000 a month from Willow, who paid him $400 on Sept. 10, 2010, for which he was charged with petit larceny.

Jorgensen argued that Fagen’s work as councilman is a 9-to-5 position, one in which activities such as attending community events such as parades is part of his work-time. He said Fagen collected $430 a week in unemployment benefits.

“He was a full-time employee,” argued Jorgensen, who is prosecuting the case with Marshall Trager. “ … He lied about his work status.”

He told the jury, which consists of 10 women and four men, that during the trial he would call a number of witnesses to piece together a “puzzle” of evidence demonstrating Fagen’s guilt, including supervisors from the Department of Labor, who in part will explain rules and regulations of filing unemployment claims and the definition of work.  

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But Fagen’s attorney, Marc Gann, maintained that his client is innocent of the charges and said that he will show that the case is politically motivated.

“This case is about a political vendetta,” said Gann in his opening statement. “... It comes down to intent.”

Gann characterized Fagen, a Democrat, as a “gnat” and “a Ross Perot” to the Republicans, who held the majority on the City Council prior to and after his election in November 2009.

“The powers that be in Long Beach were not happy he got elected,” Gann said, arguing that the councilman exposed “financial improprieties” in the city.  

Gann said that Fagen was set up, claiming that the prior administration “pushed on” him a diary in which he was asked to log his activities as councilman, including attending parades and even brief conversations with constituents outside of City Hall, as part of his work-time.

Gann argued that Fagen never earned more than $20,000 as a councilman, saying that each check he received was in the amount of $405, and that Fagen’s only responsibilities for which he is paid are to attend two council meetings each month.

Fagen didn’t start to work for Willow Advisors until after Sept. 12, 2010, when his unemployment had expired, Gann argued. Fagen, who previously worked in sports media, had lost his job in August 2009 and started to collect unemployment insurance prior to his work on the council, receiving $405 in weekly benefits.

Gann told the jurors that he didn’t expect the prosecutors to call either former City Manager Charles Theofan or former comptroller Sandra Clarson to testify as witnesses in the case. But he noted that Jeff Nogid, the sitting comptroller who replaced Clarson last year, will be called as a witness.

Jack January 16, 2013 at 07:19 PM
What a scam artist. 2 jobs and collecting unemployment. What kind of fantastic skills, and abilities did he have to be an "advisor" for that company. Who are they. Was there a quid pro quo in regards to the City Council?
Jack January 16, 2013 at 07:20 PM
Politicians should not be able to have more than one job. it allows for influence peddling and kickbacks.
Rudolph Schubert January 17, 2013 at 10:15 AM
I am confused. I have always thought and felt, if any person commits fraud to obtain any benefits otherwise not qualified for; the person is a low-life who steals from those in need and does not belong in our society. Do Politicians have an exemption?
Hamburger January 17, 2013 at 01:30 PM
why even have a trial then?
Leonard Bauman January 17, 2013 at 01:35 PM
Ladies and gentlemen of the Patch jury, what is your verdict? Is the Honorable Councilman Fagan guilty of unemployment fraud? What should his sentence be if you found him guilty? Should he go to work for FEMA? Should he clean portapotties?
Rudolph Schubert January 17, 2013 at 02:42 PM
GUILTY!!!!! Sentence - Clean Bay Park sewage sludge for 20 years!
Rudolph Schubert January 17, 2013 at 02:47 PM
An unemployment week runs Monday through Sunday. If you wish to claim benefits for a week of unemployment, you have from the Sunday date at the end of that week through the next Saturday to do so. The first week of your claim is a waiting period and is not paid. However, you must claim benefits for that week and get credit, so that you may claim benefits for future weeks of unemployment. When you claim weekly benefits, you must answer questions to certify how many days you were ready, willing and able to work during the past week. The certification system only handles certification for one week at a time. GUILTY!!!!!
Tonto Hertzberg January 17, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Fagen told me he was going to NYU. Little did I know it was New York Unemployment.
BSM January 17, 2013 at 06:20 PM
Hmmmmm, he collected $15,000 in benefits and his trial is costing how much? And Theofan won't be called why? I have no idea if he is guilty but someone is making political hay out of this for sure.
Jack January 17, 2013 at 06:41 PM
No they are not. No one in Long Beach needs to be called as a witness other than him. Let him say whether he took the money or not. He is responsible for his actions not the city manager. Stop making excuses this is our tax money.
Rudolph Schubert January 17, 2013 at 06:47 PM
To be found guilty of a felony is worth the cost. He will end up with a life sentence in a sense. He cannot hold office, no law practice, no financial jobs, no public service, no rights to own a gun. The felony will be public record. He will have to reimburse the $15,000 plus interest. Fines will be high. Prison guaranteed. Worth the cost. The better for the working people of America.
Beachguy January 17, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Rudolph: why do you mention that if he's convicted of a felony that he will be barred from the practice of law? What's the point? I don't get it? Felons are deprived of many civil liberties but why have you mentioned this one?
Christopher January 17, 2013 at 08:59 PM
He is entitled to trial by Jury. Go to the court hear the evidence before you past judgement. Fagen is paid once a month not weekly. Only paid for the meetings he attends. The question of fact is did he defraud the state of NY OUT OF $405.00. That's the question Patch commentors.
Beachguy January 17, 2013 at 09:38 PM
Christopher is correct. He's presumed innocent until proven guilty. He was ostracized by the Republicans partially because he stood up to them.Even now he's not afraid to stand alone. Just recently he supported the citizens right to ask questions at council meetings. When the hell else can questions be asked?? To me the facts of his case are complicated and not as simple as people are making them out to be. So let the evidence unfold in court and see what really happened. LB can be a brutal place politically. Every time a new administration comes in some police are demoted, some are promoted and the unhappy ones sue the city. People on the losing side are routinely treated vindictively. I'm sure that's part of what happened here. Let's wait and see how it all unfolds.
Beachguy January 17, 2013 at 09:40 PM
What happened to the missing $20,000 beach receipts? am I the only person in LB who gives a damn about that? or maybe I missed the news.
Disgusted Homeowner January 17, 2013 at 10:13 PM
STOLE IT BUT HAVE TO POST IT Of all of your grievances against this administration, what most piques me is political cronyism/nepotism re Robinson (not qualified) & Cruz (put in charge of the BOA? with what credentials?) Ok, yes, I believe we do better when the talent comes from within the community but the standards need to be equal to a true vetting. I would love to give Torres the benefit of the doubt with some of the blunders you fact-checked, like: perhaps he's being fed inaccurate info by sources he trusts to have his back? Basically it appears this whole administration is in the deep way over their waders.
Disgusted Homeowner January 17, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Go to work for FEMA? That is not a sentence it is a free ride. You get to make judgements on something you know nothing about, condescend the people you are paid to serve, no qualifications necessary. Almost like being on City Council or having Mike or Tim's job.
Tonto Hertzberg January 17, 2013 at 10:28 PM
In addition, is there a person reading this post that did not work off the books while on the dole? This is a bullshit waste of time.
Christopher January 19, 2013 at 07:20 AM
Beachguy correct. I heard some of the cross examination of the NYS umemployment worker. He stated that now after hearing MR. Fagen only gets paid once a month and not weekly, then he is not in violation of the law when the question asked did you earn mire than $405.00 weekly the answer is NO. Go to the Court the trial is interesting and Theofan and the Soffields are no saints in the matter. The jury is still out on the entire Republican administration. Patch commentators are quick to say someone is guilty without knowing FACTS. Un real. So I guess if the Jury returns a Not Guilty verdict the court of Patch Commentors he is Guilty. Sorry does not count.
Jack January 19, 2013 at 10:13 PM
This is not a reublican vs democrat trial. Stop confusing the facts. The DA is a democrat! Either he took the money or he didn't. His background is a mystery. No one knows much about him. Where is he originally from??? Why does he have so many odd jobs for short periods of time? What did the democrats expect from his appointment to the city council? Were they expecting acess from his pumped up fictional jobs?
Beachguy January 20, 2013 at 09:20 AM
Fagen does odd jobs? For short periods of time? Just how does one get access from pumped up fictional jobs? Just what are you talking about Jack? Are you having some of those moments when the words simply don't fit together properly? When it's hard to make sense? Try slowing down and getting a grip on yourself. It will all work out.
Christopher January 24, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Jack no one is confusing anyone except you. The question when you file for unemployment you are asked did you earn more than $405.00 im the week ending. Fagen case comes down to when he was actually working and not working.. according tobthe city payroll as a councilmen it is part time. The pay once a month not weekly. Get the Facts before u past judgment. Kathleen Rice will prosecute anyone Republican, Democrat.


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