NEW YORK, N.Y. – A former president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute and several construction company executives are set for trial Monday on corruption charges stemming from their alleged rigging of bids in an upstate development plan known as the Buffalo Billion.
The trial in Manhattan federal court is the sequel to a trial that ended earlier this year with the conviction of Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on bribery and fraud charges and others. He is awaiting sentencing.
Cuomo, a Democrat, was not accused of wrongdoing himself in either case, but the corruption allegations have left a cloud over his administration. The Percoco trial in March repeatedly muddied the name of Cuomo, who picked Percoco to run his 2014 re-election campaign and likened him to a brother.
But the allegations against four more men in a second trial stemming from the same indictment is unlikely to hit as close to the governor as the first trial, which featured his legal counsel as a witness.
This time, the main defendant is Alain Kaloyeros, 62, who led the Polytechnic Institute until he resigned in October 2016 and was a supporter of the program that offered $1 billion in government money for projects in Buffalo. He is on trial with three developers. Cuomo once called Kaloyeros his “economic guru” and the governor invited him to appear at the announcement of various economic development projects.
Prosecutors allege that Kaloyeros, who had led many of Cuomo’s efforts to lure high-tech investment upstate, was part of a conspiracy to secretly enable developers who were big contributors to Cuomo’s campaigns to win the lucrative contracts.
“Other competitors were either kept out or chose not to apply because of the actions of the defendants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky said at a recent hearing.
Kaloyeros will stand trial along with Buffalo-area developer Louis Ciminielli, 62, and two top officers of Syracuse-based COR Development: Steven Aiello, 60, and Joe Gerardi, 58. Ciminelli and others in his company, LPCiminelli, contributed nearly $100,000 to Cuomo’s campaign while COR executives and their relatives contributed $125,000 to Cuomo’s campaign.
Defence lawyers said the developers who won contracts were not favoured.
U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni will preside over a trial that’s expected to last as long as six weeks. Opening statements begin Monday morning.
So far, the trials have not led lawmakers to tighten ethics rules or campaign finance limits. More than 30 state lawmakers have left office facing allegations of misconduct since 2000. Still, there has been little response from Albany officials, despite calls to strengthen state ethics rules.