Former Bronx Congressman Mario Biaggi Dies At 97

Former Bronx Rep. Mario Biaggi

Former Bronx Rep. Mario Biaggi

Mario Biaggi, a highly decorated former New York City police officer and a popular 10-term Democratic congressman from the Bronx died on Wednesday at his home in the Bronx. He was 97. Biaggi’s passing was reported by his longtime spokesman Mortimer Matz.

“It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Mario Biaggi this morning. Mr. Biaggi is remembered by many as a beloved figure in this borough, admired for both his career as a police officer and for his tireless commitment to constituent service. My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family during their time of mourning,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in a statement.

Born in East Harlem to Italian immigrants, he had shined shoes, delivered mail and become a police officer. In 23 years on the force, he was wounded 11 times, killed two suspects in self-defense and became a law enforcement legend, winning dozens of citations for valor and national recognition.

In 19 years in the House, achieved in biennial landslides of up to 90 percent of the vote, he became the senior member of New York’s Congressional delegation, a law-and-order conservative who supported labor, Israel and laws to crack down on drugs, lift local businesses, and help families and the elderly.

He was easily re-elected nine times, but his political career began unraveling in the mid-1980s amid corruption allegations.

The final blow came in 1988 when he was convicted of extorting $3.5 million in cash and stock from Wedtech Corp., a machine shop that had obtained millions of dollars in no-bid defense contracts.

Biaggi was sentenced to eight years in prison, and ended up serving a little over two. He tried to get his House seat back in 1992, but failed to beat Rep. Eliot Engel.

Wedtech was Biaggi’s second felony conviction, coming about a year after his conviction for obstructing justice and accepting an illegal gratuity in the form of a paid Florida vacation.

Mr. Biaggi always maintained his innocence, saying at his resignation news conference in August 1988 that he had never taken a bribe. “I hope with the passage of time, people will look back and say he really cared and nothing can nor will take away what he has done,” he said in concluding his resignation news conference.

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