US Congressman Michael Grimm announces resignation after admitting tax evasion

Former Marine notoriously threatened to throw reporter off a balcony

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The Independent US

A US congressman with a tough-guy reputation and who was caught on camera threatening to throw a reporter from a balcony, has announced his resignation. The move comes one week after he admitted tax evasion.

“This decision is made with a heavy heart, as I have enjoyed a very special relationship and closeness with my constituents, whom I care about deeply,” Republican Michael Grimm, who represents New York’s 13th District, said in a statement released shortly before midnight on Monday.

The one-time FBI agent, added: “The events which led to this day did not break my spirit, nor the will of the voters. However, I do not believe that I can continue to be 100 per cent effective in the next Congress, and therefore, out of respect for the office and the people I so proudly represent, it is time for me to start the next chapter of my life.”

Grimm, 44, a former Marine who was elected to a third term as the representative for Staten Island in November, pleaded guilty on December 23 in a federal court in Brooklyn to one count of aiding in the filing of a false tax return. He had been accused of hiding more than $1m (£643,000) in sales and wages while running a Manhattan health-food restaurant, the Associated Press reported.

Under a plea agreement, he could face up to three years in federal prison. His sentencing is set to be heard on June 8.

Grimm had initially said he wanted to continue serving in the Congress despite the conviction. He is the Republican Party’s only congressional representative in Democrat-dominated New York city.

But in his statement, he said he would resign on January 5. The House is due to reconvene the following day. His resignation will reduce the Republican majority from 247 seats to 246. Reports said his change of heart followed a meeting with House Speaker John Boehner.

The indictment filed in court against Grimm claimed that his fraud began in 2007 after he retired from the FBI and began investing in a restaurant called Healthalicious. It accused him of underreporting more than $1 in wages and receipts to evade payroll, income and sales taxes, in part by paying immigrant workers, some of them in the country illegally, in cash.

In court last week, Grimm acknowledged that while operating the restaurant, “we underestimated gross receipts and used money to pay employees off the books”. He added: “The tax returns were false.”

The case stemmed from an investigation of Grimm’s campaign financing. He was never charged with any offense related to his campaign, but a woman romantically linked to him pleaded guilty in September to lining up straw donors for his 2010 run, the Associated Press said. Grimm has denied knowledge of any fundraising improprieties.

The Washington Post said Grimm had a reputation “being intense and at times combative”. Meanwhile, the New York Times said he was a “tough-talking politician with a clenched jaw and an intense stare, a fondness for dark-tailored suits and Brooklyn wine bars”.

The politician made headlines around the world last January after Barack Obama’s State of the Union address when he told a cable TV reporter he wanted to throw him off a balcony in the Capitol building for asking about the campaign finance inquiry.

“I’ll break you in half. Like a boy,” said Grimm, who later apologised.