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Lobbyist settles NY ethics probe tied to convicted state senator

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A lobbyist whose firm made payments to a law firm employing the son of late New York state senator Thomas Libous, at a time it regularly lobbied the once-influential politician, agreed to pay $10,000 to settle ethics charges related to a corruption probe.

The state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics on Friday said Fred Hiffa arranged for payments totaling $50,000 over one year to the Westchester County law firm Santangelo, Randazzo & Mangone, which employed Libous' son Matthew.

Hiffa was accused of violating the gift ban provision of a New York lobbying law by causing his former Albany-based firm Ostroff, Hiffa & Associates Inc to make the payments starting in 2006, while he lobbied the senator on behalf of clients.

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Prosecutors have said the payments were meant to defray the cost of Matthew Libous' salary and a lease of a Range Rover.

Mark Glaser, a lawyer for Hiffa, declined to comment.

Once the state senate's second-highest ranking Republican and chairman of its transportation committee, Thomas Libous was found guilty by a federal jury in July 2015 of lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents investigating the law firm's hiring of his son.

The former senator, from Binghamton, was later sentenced to six months of home confinement, after he had been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He died in May 2016 at age 63.

Matthew Libous was separately convicted in January 2015 on tax charges, and sentenced to six months in prison.

Hiffa's former firm is now known as Ostroff Associates Inc. It had no immediate comment.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)