Gonzalez was born in Coamo, Puerto Rico, and his family moved to the United States shortly thereafter.
Prior to his election to the State Senate, Gonzalez worked as the union representative for the Transport Workers Union, and subsequently, the union representative for Local 820 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from 1969 until 1979, which was during his employment at Brinks Armored Car Service.
Gonzalez was married on July 20, 1969 and has four children with his wife. He and his first wife divorced in March 1987.
Gonzalez was elected to the New York State Senate in 1989, in a special election to replace Israel Ruiz Jr., who had been expelled upon conviction of fraud charges. He was the Chairman of the Minority Conference in the Senate, as well as Chairman Emeritus of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, and Chairman of the New York State Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force. He also was President of the National Hispanic Policy Institute and on the Executive Committee of the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas.
On August 25, 2006, Gonzalez was indicted on federal mail fraud charges. He was accused of taking $37,412 from November 2000 to May 2006 from the West Bronx Neighborhood Association, a nonprofit organization he founded, and using it for personal expenses, including New York Yankees tickets and membership fees at a vacation club in the Dominican Republic. He surrendered to federal authorities when his indictment was unsealed, and released on $25,000 bail following his arraignment the same day.
Despite being under indictment, González was re-elected in a landslide to his State Senate seat on Election Day in November 2006.
A superseding indictment followed on December 12, 2006, accusing Gonzalez and others of mail fraud and theft of federal funds in a conspiracy to steal $423,000 through a complicated scheme that involved funneling the money through the West Bronx Neighborhood Association and the United Latin American Foundation, another not-for-profit group. As in the first set of charges, he was also accused of using state money and about $40,000 in federal grants for membership fees in a vacation club, rent and renovations for homes used by his wife and mother-in-law, and items like Yankees tickets, jewelry and college tuition for his daughter, and designing and printing labels for cigars produced by a company he owned.
The case against Gonzalez was delayed because of concurrent investigations of other New York State lawmakers, and he was challenged in the 2008 Democratic primary by Pedro Espada Jr., who had previously been a New York State Senator in an adjoining district. Despite backing from the New York State Democratic party, Gonzalez lost the primary election.
On May 7, 2009, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and two counts of conspiracy. The five other charges against him in the indictment, including money laundering, fraud, and the abuse of his office, were dropped. Neil Berger and Miguel Castanos, co-defendants who were involved in the scheme with the non-profit organizations and indicted with Gonzalez, also pleaded guilty, and Lucia Sanchez, a fourth defendant, went to trial.
Early in 2010, Gonzalez tried to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming that his first lawyer, Murray Richman, a friend who had represented him without charge, "seemed wholly uninterested in trial preparation, wanted me to plead guilty and was pressuring me to produce this outcome," that beyond interviewing a few minor witnesses, he did not pursue other key witnesses, and that he did not thoroughly review discovery materials that the government made available to the defense. However, U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III, the trial judge, refused to allow Gonzalez to withdraw his plea, stating that the request "presents the paradigm of the defendant who attempts to undermine the integrity of the judicial process" and "the notion that the free will of a longtime New York state senator was overridden by the imminence of trial, coercion by his attorney, or pressure from this court is preposterous."
The following month, Gonzalez was sentenced to 7 years in federal prison and ordered to forfeit $737,775. The prison sentence was subsequently upheld on appeal, although a portion of the financial restitution was set aside.
Gonzalez completed his sentence on August 3, 2016. Espada, his replacement in the State Senate, was also convicted of federal crimes and is serving a five-year prison term that is scheduled to end in October 2017.
- Baker, Al; Williams, Timothy (August 26, 2006). "State Senator Is Accused of Using Nonprofit's Funds". The New York Times. p. B1. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- Newman, Maria; Hartocollis, Anemona (December 13, 2006). "State Senator Faces New Charges". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- Hartocollis, Anemona (December 14, 2006). "N.Y. State Senator Is Charged With Stealing More Than $400,000". The New York Times. p. B5. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- Confessore, Nicholas; Hicks, Jonathan P. (September 9, 2008). "Silver Sidesteps a Challenge, but Other Incumbents Fall in Primary". The New York Times. p. B1. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- Confessore, Nicholas (May 8, 2009). "Ex-State Senator Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges". The New York Times. p. A16. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- Weiser, Benjamin (March 18, 2010). "A Lawyer Who Represents a Friend May Have an Unhappy Client". The New York Times. p. A24. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- Weiser, Benjamin (April 8, 2010). "Judge Won't Let Former Senator Withdraw Plea". The New York Times. p. A25. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- Weiser, Benjamin (May 26, 2010). "A Former Bronx Senator Gets 7 Years for Corruption". The New York Times. p. A22. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- "Former New York State Senator Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to Seven Year in Prison" (PDF). nyc.gov. United States Attorney Southern District of New York. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- Brush, Pete. "2nd Circ. Upholds Ex-NY Sen. Gonzalez's Prison Time". law360.com. Law 360. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
- "Inmate Locator". bop.gov. Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 17 August 2016.
|New York State Senate|
Israel Ruiz, Jr.
| New York State Senate
Pedro Espada Jr.
Joseph L. Galiber
| New York State Senate
| New York State Senate
Pedro Espada Jr.