By Nate Raymond


NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former New York state senator was sentenced on Wednesday to five years in prison for seeking to obstruct a federal investigation into whether he had embezzled proceeds from sales of foreclosed properties.


John Sampson, 51, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry in Brooklyn, where the Democrat had been a state senator from 1997 until his conviction in July 2015 on charges that he obstructed justice and made false statements.


A spokesman for Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers confirmed the sentence, which also included a $75,000 fine. Sampson's lawyer, Nick Akerman, said his client looked forward to appealing his conviction.


The case is one of several corruption probes involving politicians in Albany, New York's capital, in recent years. Former leaders of the state's two legislative houses, Democrat Sheldon Silver and Republican Dean Skelos, were convicted in 2015.

Sampson, an ex-minority leader for the state's Senate, was initially charged in 2013 with embezzling $440,000 from escrow accounts related to Brooklyn properties he controlled in his role as a court-appointed referee in foreclosure proceedings.

Prosecutors accused Sampson of using the money to help pay for an unsuccessful 2005 primary bid for Brooklyn district attorney.

But Irizarry dismissed the embezzlement charges in October on statute of limitations grounds, leaving prosecutors to take him to trial on charges that Sampson attempted to impede their investigation.

Prosecutors said that in 2006, Sampson asked Edul Ahmad, an associate in the real estate industry, for $188,500 to help repay some of the stolen money, out of fear it could subject him to prosecution.

After Ahmad was indicted in 2011 as part of a mortgage fraud scheme, Sampson attempted to prevent him from cooperating with authorities and sought information about that case from Sam Noel, a paralegal in the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office.

Both Ahmad and Noel ultimately pleaded guilty to federal charges and testified at Sampson's trial.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Lisa Von Ahn)