Updated 3:20 p.m. YONKERS, N. Y. – Former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi was sentenced to six years in federal prison, and her political mentor, former city Republican party leader Zehy Jereis, was handed a four-year sentence, for their roles in a corruption scandal.
The pair, found guilty in March of several conspiracy, extortion and bribery charges, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Federal Court in Manhattan.
Before she was sentenced, a tearful Annabi told the court she had seen the error of her ways.
"I'm willing to accept any punishment you want to impose on me," she said.
Jereis declined to make a statement to the court.
Following sentencing, McMahon rejected defense requests to allow Annabi and Jereis to remain free as they appeal their convictions. She ordered the pair, both of whom have been free on bail, to surrender by March 4 to begin serving their prison terms.
In addition to prison time, Annabi and Jereis were each sentenced to two years of supervised release and each ordered to forfeit more than $209,000. In addition, Annabi was ordered to forfeit more than $1 million in loans and bribes.
The pair were also ordered to pay $13,884 in restitution to the City of Yonkers, representing a portion of Annabi’s salary, and $64,071 to reimburse the City of Yonkers for legal fees.
Annabi was also ordered to pay roughly $164,000 to PNC Bank. In addition, Annabi was ordered to pay $33,000 for the costs of prosecution to the United States Government.
“Today’s sentencing of Sandy Annabi and Zehy Jereis turns the page on a sordid chapter in the history of the great City of Yonkers,” Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for ther Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “The defendants cheated the public and now they have been brought to justice. Public officials should understand that we have never been more committed to making sure that corruption does not pay.”
During the trial, prosecutors said Jereis, the city’s former GOP leader, paid Annabi nearly $200,000 to control her vote on the City Council, specifically the controversial Ridge Hill development and the failed attempts to turn the former Longfellow School into upscale housing.
Originally, Annabi was strongly opposed to both projects, going as far as to call the Longfellow plan a “slap in the face to the taxpayers of Yonkers” at a City Council meeting.
Annabi later changed her votes and supported both projects, a move she said was made due to concession by developers. Prosecutors, however, charged she made the switch thanks to cash and lavish gifts given to her by Jereis.
Prosecutors linked expensive items like a Rolex watch, a diamond necklace and airline ticket upgrades that Annabi bought to the bribe payments from Jereis. The defense argued that the gifts, which also included money for a Rumsey Road apartment, were tokens of a failed romantic courtship from the married GOP leader.
The jury didn’t buy the argument and found Annabi, 42, and Jereis, 40, guilty of two conspiracy charges, one corruption charge and an extortion charge.
In addition, Annabi was convicted of one additional corruption charge, three counts of making a false statement to a bank and two counts of filing false tax returns. Jereis was charged with one additional charge of making corrupt payments.
Prosecutors were seeking prison terms ranging from 14 to 17 years for Annabi and 11 to 14 years for Jereis. Annabi’s lawyer has asked the court for probation while Jereis’ lawyer had asked for a prison sentence of no more than 18 months.