NYC mayor stopped in the street by FBI agents, has his phones seized

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New York: One day earlier this week, FBI agents approached New York Mayor Eric Adams on the street and asked his security detail to step away. Then they climbed into his SUV with him and took his electronic devices.

It may read like a police drama episode, but the surprise move appeared to be a dramatic escalation of a federal corruption investigation into his 2021 election campaign. The probe is considering whether the campaign, conspired with the Turkish government and others to funnel money into its coffers, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

New York Mayor Eric Adams during a public safety-related announcement at New York City Police Department last month.Credit: AP

One of the people said the agents, using a court-authorised warrant, took at least two mobile phones and an iPad from him while in the car. They were returned to Adams within a matter of days, the people said, but law enforcement investigators with a search warrant can make copies of the data on devices after they seize them.

It was not immediately clear whether the agents referred to the fundraising investigation when they took Adams’ devices.

The seizure was an extraordinary development and appeared to be the first direct instance of the campaign contribution investigation touching the mayor. Adams, a retired police captain, said he was so strident in urging his staff to “follow the law” that he could be almost “annoying”.

Federal agents raided the home of Brianna Suggs, a top fundraiser and longtime confidante to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, last week.Credit: AP

Spokespeople for Adams and his campaign did not immediately comment.

Spokespeople for the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, whose prosecutors are also investigating the matter, declined to comment.

The federal investigation into Adams’ campaign burst into public view November 2, when FBI agents searched the home of his chief fundraiser and seized two laptops, three iPhones and a manila folder labelled “Eric Adams”.

The fundraiser, a 25-year-old former intern named Brianna Suggs, has not spoken publicly since the raid.

Adams responded to news of the raid by abruptly returning from Washington, where he had only just arrived for a day of meetings with White House and congressional leaders regarding the migrant influx, an issue he has said threatens to “destroy New York City”.

He said his immediate return was driven by his desire to be present for his team, and out of concern for Suggs, who he said had gone through a “traumatic experience”.

“Although I am mayor, I have not stopped being a man and a human,” he said.

But he also said he did not speak with Suggs on the day of the raid, to avoid any appearance of interfering in an ongoing investigation.

The warrant obtained by the FBI to search Suggs’ home sought evidence of a conspiracy to violate campaign finance law between members of Adams’ campaign, the Turkish government or Turkish nationals, and a Brooklyn-based construction company, KSK Construction, whose owners are originally from Turkey. The warrant also sought records about donations from Bay Atlantic University, a Washington, DC, college whose founder is Turkish and is affiliated with a school Adams visited when he went to Turkey as Brooklyn borough president in 2015.

The warrant, reviewed by The New York Times, indicated authorities were looking at whether the Turkish government or Turkish nationals funnelled donations to Adams using a so-called straw donor scheme, in which the contributors listed were not the actual source of the money. The warrant also inquired about Adams’ campaign’s use of New York City’s generous public matching program, in which the city offers an 8-to-1 match of the first $US250 of a resident’s donation.

The federal authorities also sought evidence of whether any Adams campaign member provided any benefit to Turkey or the construction company in exchange for campaign donations.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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