Spooked by federal prosecutor Preet Bharara’s crackdown on Albany, a Queens lawmaker warned his staffers to keep their noses clean in case any investigator tried to turn them against him.
State Sen. James Sanders told employees late last year that the feds were investigating him and that anyone with “baby-mama drama” or a “white powder issue” should resolve it immediately, said a source close to Sanders.
“He said, ‘The Department of Justice has launched an investigation, and they will turn over every rock to try to get to me,’ ” the source recalled.
“And he told the staff, ‘Anyone in here who has baby-mama drama, who has a little white-powder issue, and I’m telling you to clean up your acts, because they are coming, and they are coming strong, and they will come after y’all to get to me.’ ”
The Democrat allegedly said the inquiry concerned his campaign activities and spanned his time in the City Council but revealed little else at a staff briefing after a forum at the Omega Psi Phi Day Care Center in South Ozone Park.
He assured staff, “You’re not going to find anything on me,” the source said.
“He would say all the time, ‘I’m a chess player. I’m very strategic. I’m an analytical thinker.’ ”
Asked about the claims, Sanders said, “The story is too silly to comment on.”
A spokesman for Bharara, the US attorney, also declined to comment.
Sanders served in the City Council from 2002 to 2012 and has been a state senator since January 2013.
He doled out nearly $3 million in council slush funds to Queens groups between 2008 and 2013, city records show. But he has had funding troubles.
He raised only $293,962 — and spent $324,941 — in his council run, city campaign-finance records say. In his Senate bids, he collected $221,020 and spent $324,941, state records say.
Sanders said he earned $75,000 to $100,000 in 2013 but owed $30,000 to the city Campaign Finance Board, state records show.
He acknowledged his house went into foreclosure as a result of predatory lending in 2011.
“His finance are a shamble. He has no assets; he hasn’t raised money. It’s frustrating,” said a former aide who declined to be identified.
Feds contacted two Sanders aides — Mike Duvalle and Tajuana Hamm — after the lawmaker told staff about the probe, one Sanders source said.
Investigators opened the inquiry into Sanders about two years ago, an FBI agent told another source.