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Armory Scandal: Marc Jacobs Intl. in Bribery Probe

Marc Jacobs International is caught up in a bribery scandal involving its favorite show space, the 69th Regiment Armory - and is the subject of a criminal...

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NEW YORK — Marc Jacobs International is caught up in a bribery scandal involving its favorite show space, the 69th Regiment Armory — and is the subject of a criminal investigation as a result.

The former superintendent of Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory, James Jackson, has been indicted on charges of demanding more than $30,000 to allow the space to be used by the designer and for other events. Marc Jacobs International allegedly made payoffs to Jackson through the designer’s public relations firm, KCD Public Relations, to reserve the national historic landmark on key dates, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference Wednesday.

Neither Marc Jacobs International nor KCD was accused in the indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday. Cuomo said the investigation was continuing to determine if payments to Jackson, who was a public employee, constituted a crime.

While the designer is cooperating fully with the probe, it could face charges of its own. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office told WWD, “Marc Jacobs International is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the attorney general and we cannot comment further.”

The spokesman declined to say whether KCD is involved in any further investigation.

“We have been and are cooperating fully with the New York State Attorney General’s office in its investigation of this matter,” a Marc Jacobs spokesman said. “We are using the armory for this week’s fashion shows with the full knowledge and consent of the attorney general’s office.”

A lawyer for KCD said the p.r. firm was also cooperating with Cuomo’s inquiry.

The armory, a cavernous space on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, has been the site of Marc Jacobs’ shows for several years. The Marc Jacobs New York Fashion Week runway show is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and the Marc by Marc Jacobs event was held at the armory on Tuesday.

The investigation began when the attorney general’s office received a tip — the complainant was not identified — that the superintendent of the armory had demanded payoffs from a vendor. Law enforcement launched an undercover investigation, which lead them to Marc Jacobs’ show producer and others, and resulted in Jackson’s arrest and indictment on 31 felony counts, including extortion, bribery and grand larceny. The bribes included cash as well as exercise and computer equipment, law enforcement authorities said.

The 69th Regiment Armory rents for about $6,000 a day for commercial events, excluding utilities, security and insurance coverage, officials said.

The other companies named in the investigation that led to the indictment were Ramsay Art Fairs and the International Carpet Show.

Jackson pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday before State Supreme Court Justice Lewis B. Stone. If convicted, he faces more than 20 years in prison. He had worked for the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs for 30 years and was the armory superintendent for eight years until his arrest in October.

Jackson’s lawyer, Alan Abramson, declined comment.

The armory has been the headquarters of New York’s Fighting 69th Regiment since 1904, and houses other military units deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Cuomo and State Inspector General Kristine Hamann said they intended to audit the city’s other armories as well.

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