ALBANY - What does ziti have to do with corruption in New York's capital city?
The answer is in criminal complaints filed Thursday by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against 10 defendants with various ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, including former close aide Joseph Percoco and SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros.
Don't have time to read the complaints? We've got you covered.
Here are some highlights:
Ziti, The Sopranos and more:
Percoco and Todd Howe, a lobbyist and longtime Cuomo family loyalist who pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery and tax-related crimes, had plenty of colorful code names for various aspects of the alleged bribery schemes.
Like "ziti," for example.
The complaint quotes a number of examples in emails between Howe and Percoco where they refer to the money at the center of the schemes as "ziti," an apparent reference to the famed HBO mob drama The Sopranos, the federal complaint said.
And both Howe and Percoco had the same nickname for each other: "Herb." (The nickname apparently dates back to when they both worked for former Gov. Mario Cuomo, father of the current governor.)
"(H)erb — need 7500 boxes of zitti!!" Howe wrote to Percoco.
Percoco responded: "yes 7500/month is her old salary."
It's an apparent reference to Percoco's wife, who was later paid $7,500 a month by a consultant tied to Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company building a $900 million power plant in Orange County.
At another point, Howe wrote to Percoco: "Got to keep that ziti flowing man!!!"
No action, more extortion
Peter Kelly, a CPV executive whom Percoco and Howe repeatedly referred to as "fat man," arranged the payments to Percoco's wife, which Bharara's office alleges was masked by a low-show job.
At the time, CPV was seeking a lucrative power-purchasing agreement from state regulators, which would have required the state to buy power from the company's Orange County plant for 15 years.
But by 2013, Percoco had determined the state wouldn't approve the purchasing agreement.
That didn't stop Percoco and Howe to continue soliciting payments from CPV, according to federal prosecutors. Percoco did not tell Kelly the agreement would not be approved.
“Handle fat boy carefully," Howe wrote to Percoco on July 22, 2014. "We don’t need an interruption in that Zitti delivery or else (we'll) really be up the creek.”
According to Bharara's office, the last payment to Percoco's wife came on Jan. 28 of this year.
Percoco, through his attorney Barry Bohrer, has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty. Howe pleaded guilty Wednesday and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.
When payments started to flow to Percoco and his wife in 2012, he was facing significant financial issues, according to the federal complaint.
And much of the money problems appear to focus on the Percocos' South Salem home, which the couple purchased for $800,000 in July 2012.
Two months after they closed on the house, Percoco's wife took a year-long, unpaid leave from her job as a public school teacher in New York City. Later, she resigned.
That dropped the Percocos' average monthly income from $12,715 to $8,594, while their expenses were over $20,000 a month, according to the complaint.
Howe, meanwhile, was facing money problems of his own.
“Herb, do the right thing with Braith..," Howe wrote to Percoco, referring to another Kelly nickname. "this goes south herb, you will have to clean out the ‘herb cave’ downstairs at the estate as I’ll have to move in!!!”
You've got mail
Emails are at the center of both the federal and state complaints.
Many of them were between Howe and Percoco, often discussing issues related to CPV and COR Development, a Syracuse developer at the center of the complaint.
One email, in particular, forms the backbone of a state bid-rigging charge against Kaloyeros.
The message from Feb. 20, 2015, shows him directing SUNY Poly staff members to create a request for proposals for a student-housing project near the college's Albany campus, complete with specifications he wanted in the request.
A half-hour later, Kaloyeros forwarded the email to Joseph Niccola, head of Albany developer Columbia Development.
"Coming to you with minimal fuss," Kaloyeros wrote. Columbia was ultimately awarded the contract, though the project was later shelved amid scrutiny.