O'Hara admits to felony

Ex-Patroons owner pleads guilty in Texas

Albany Times-Union/May 15, 2013

Albany - Ten days before his trial was to start, a former owner of the Albany Patroons championship basketball team pleaded guilty to a felony count in Texas as part of a public corruption investigation.

Entrepreneur and businessman Joseph O'Hara is scheduled to be sentenced July 30 after pleading guilty on Friday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, according to federal court records. A plea agreement calls for a term of 36 months and cash restitution to be determined. O'Hara, of Schenectady, once owned local sports teams and other businesses and served as a business consultant to public governments, school districts and private firms, including the personal improvement business NXIVM. Principals of NXIVM, which is based in Colonie, have had legal disputes with him for several years.

O'Hara, an attorney who owned the Patroons in the early 1990s, was indicted in November 2010 on three felony charges in El Paso, Texas. The 65-year-old was accused of bribing an administrator in a local school district. Federal prosecutors said he used a $5,000 campaign contribution to help secure a computer services contract.

While several documents in the O'Hara case are unavailable to the public, the record shows that O'Hara's guilty plea was accepted by Judge Frank Montalvo on Friday.

O'Hara's lawyer Albert Weisenberger said the plea offer had surfaced recently and O'Hara had been planning to go to trial May 20.

A former associate of O'Hara's had previously pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to the case and was planning to testify in the trial prior to his own sentencing, said Weisenberger. Some records in the case are sealed, he said, because of an ongoing investigation involving the El Paso Independent School District.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Texas was unavailable on Wednesday.

Weisenberger said that office has conducted a multi-year investigation of public corruption in the El Paso region. He said he is unaware of O'Hara assisting in other cases.

He said the maximum sentence his client faces is 20 years in prison. Under terms of the agreement, O'Hara, who has had a series of medical problems, seeks to begin his sentence Dec. 1, court records show.

Reporter Brendan Lyons contributed.

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