NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Opening statements are due to be heard in a Manhattan federal courtroom today, at the trial of several defendants accused in taking part in bid rigging schemes involving some of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature economic development programs, including the Buffalo Billion.
LP Ciminelli Chairman and CEO Louis Ciminelli is among those charged.
The trial, expected to take several weeks, centers around Alain Kaloyeros, who as the former Albany-based head of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, who was tapped by Cuomo to run several of his marquee efforts.
These included the $750 million Riverbend project, which was the signature piece of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative, and which has perhaps become more known for producing indictments than jobs.
Indeed the original criminal complaint in the case and the indictment charging the defendants refers liberally to an alleged “Buffalo Billion fraud and bribery scheme.”
According to prosecutors, the Riverbend project involved a pay to play scheme, allegedly cooked up by Kaloyeros and Todd Howe, the disgraced Cuomo confidant who was the star witness in the trial earlier this year of Cuomo’s former “right hand man” Joseph Percoco. Percoco awaits sentencing after being convicted of corruption charges.
It is alleged that Howe and Kaloyeros secretly shared with officials from Buffalo based development firm LP Ciminelli details of what was going to be sought in determining a preferred development for the project before the request for proposal was released publicly.
It is further alleged the defendants then conspired to rig the bids, by tailoring the specifications so that only LP Ciminelli would qualify to become the preferred developer on the lucrative project, and that LP Ciminelli was then awarded the project after Louis Ciminelli and his family members donated $100,000 to Cuomo’s re-election campaign. Ciminelli also hosted a fundraiser for Cuomo which raised another $250,000 for the governor according to court papers.
Originally, Louis Ciminelli and two of his vice presidents were due to stand trial. However, one of those co-defendants, Kevin Schuler, made a deal to cooperate with prosecutors and the other, Michael Laipple, recently had all the charges against him dismissed.
As well, just before the trial was set to start, Ciminelli had the most serious charge against him- bribery- dropped. He remains charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Dave McKinley reports on the trial from New York City tonight on Channel 2 News at 5 & 6 pm