BUFFALO - At first glance, it makes sense. The biggest construction company in the region, LP Ciminelli, landed the biggest construction job in western New York history: the $750M RiverBend deal to build the Solar City solar panel factory.
But the feds say how the company landed the lucrative jobs was a crime.
This morning, three executives of LP Ciminelli were placed under arrest at their homes and brought to US Courthouse in Buffalo. Two of them arrived in the courtroom in handcuffs.
The three; Michael Laipple, Kevin Schuler and CEO Louis Ciminelli now all face conspiracy and bribery charges. Conviction could mean a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Attorneys for all three men say they will win at trail.
“There was no bribery here. There was no crime committed. This is a total rush to judgment,” says Daniel Oliverio, attorney for Ciminelli.
Much of the feds case appears to be build on emails. In the criminal complaint unsealed today, details exchanges of emails between the three Ciminelli executives and two others, lobbyist Todd Howe and Alain Kaloyeros, the head of SUNY-Polytechnic and Governor Cuomo's point-man on much of the state's economic development projects.
The complaints notes months before the Riverbend project was announced in November of 2013, emails back and forth helped shape the project specs so that LP Ciminelli was certain to be the winning bidder.
One example is a requirement in the original request for proposal that the company have "over 50 years of proven experience". Only LP Ciminelli has that much experience with big construction projects in the region.