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Mario Biaggi (born October 26, 1917) is a former Democratic member of the U.S. Congress from the Bronxmarker, who was elected to 10 terms. His career ended when he was convicted in two separate corruption trials and resigned from Congress in 1988 before facing likely explusion.

Early years

He was born in East Harlemmarker, New Yorkmarker, on October 26, 1917, to poor Italian immigrants. His father, Salvatore Biaggi, was a marble setter. His mother, Mary, worked as a charwoman. He soon began working as a substitute letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. Later, Biaggi became a regular letter carrier and as he proudly recalls, his mail route included the home of one of his heroes, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. He served nearly six years with the Postal Service and, in a preview of things to come, became an activist in Branch 36 of The National Letter Carriers Association.

Police legend

In 1942, Biaggi joined the New York City Police Department. His police career spanned 23 years, and his exploits as a hero cop made him a legend in his own time. By the time he retired from the New York City Police Department with the rank of Detective Lieutenant in 1965, he was declared the most decorated police officer in the United States. Two stories are told most often of Biaggi’s police days, including one about the time he rescued a terrified young girl from a runaway horse, only to be trampled by the animal for his trouble, leading to an injury that left him with a permanent limp.

Lawyer at age 49

At the age of 45, and near the end of his distinguished police career, Biaggi entered law school. This was only made possible when the American Bar Association granted him a special dispensation to study law even though Biaggi did not have an undergraduate college degree.

Thanks to Dean Daniel Gutman, Biaggi received a full scholarship to attend New York Law Schoolmarker. Studying days, nights and weekends, Biaggi managed to complete the three-year law degree program in only two and one-half years. In 1966, at the age of 49, he was admitted to the New York Bar and founded the law firm Biaggi and Ehrlich.

Elected to Congress

Breaking the Republican pattern, in November 1968, Mario Biaggi became the first Democrat in 16 years to be elected from a traditional Bronx Republican stronghold. He was re-elected in each successive Congress by overwhelming margins. During his time in office, Mario experienced various redistricting changes. As a result, he represented persons from the Bronx, Queens and Yonkers during various years while in Congress until 1988.

In 1975 Biaggi introduced a joint resolution of Congress, Public Law 94-479, to posthumously promote George Washington to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States and restore Washington's position as the highest ranking military officer in U.S. history. This was passed on January 19, 1976, approved by President Gerald Ford on October 11, 1976, and formalized in Department of the Army Order 31-3 of March 13, 1978, with an effective appointment date of July 4, 1976, the United States Bicentennial.

1973 mayoral campaign

In 1973, Mario Biaggi threw his hat into the race for Mayor of New York City. His original plan was to enter the Democratic Primary, while also seeking the nomination of the Conservative Party. At the outset, the leadership of the Conservative Party supported him and planned to make him their nominee regardless of whether he received the Democrat line. After it was leaked that he had invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege to avoid testifying before a Grand Jury some years prior, Mario Biaggi's mayoral ambitions were effectively destroyed, and he backed away from his candidacy as a Conservative. In light of the scandal cloud now surrounding their hero, the Conservative Party accepted his declination of the nomination and ended up nominating State Senator John Marchi of Staten Island, whom they had supported against Mayor Lindsay four years earlier.

Corruption convictions

Biaggi was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and fined $500,000 for accepting an illegal gratuity and obstructing justice in 1987. He had accepted free vacations from former Brooklyn Democratic leader Meade Esposito in exchange for using his influence to help a ship-repair company that was a major client of Esposito's insurance agency. The House Ethics Committee recommended that Biaggi be expelled — the most severe of penalties.

In 1988, Biaggi, who was about to be expelled from Congress, resigned his seat after he was convicted a second time in federal court of 15 felony counts for obstruction of justice and accepting illegal gratuities, stemming from Biaggi's acceptance of bribes in exchange for federal construction contracts in the so-called Wedtech scandal. Since elections petitions were aleady filed, Biaggi remained on the ballot as the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate. Although he didn't campaign, he lost the Democratic primary to then-Assemblyman Eliot Engel, who has been in Congress ever since. Although the district was still relatively conservative at the time, Bronx Republican Chairman and State Senator Guy Velella choose not to field another candidate to run for the seat and left Biaggi on the ballot. In the general election, Engel defeated Biaggi and two other candidates who ran on the Conservative and Right to Life lines.

1992 Comeback Attempt

In 1992, Biaggi attempted a political comeback. He sought his old seat in Congress, challenging incumbent Congressman Eliot Engel in the Democratic primary. Biaggi claimed many of his constituents asked him to run, and he accused Engel of having a poor record on constituent service. Despite the enthusiasm of some of his constituents, Biaggi raised little money. Engel, who had a superior campaign warchest and who cited Biaggi's criminal convictions, won easily. After the election, the Bronx News reported that a number of Biaggi's constituents went to the polls, eager to cast their ballots for him, but were turned away. This was because Biaggi's old district was carved up after the 1990 Census, and these constituents now belonged in different districts.


  1. New York Times (August 6, 1988) "Biaggi Quits, Will Not Seek an 11th Term"
  2. Library of Congress, H.J. Res. 519
  3. Trager p. 786.
  4. Congressional Quarterly (undated) "Disciplining Members",
  5. New York Times (August 2, 1992) "An Undaunted Mario Biaggi Returns to Politics"


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