ALBANY – The most powerful upstate Republican serving in the State Legislature was indicted on federal charges Tuesday for alleging lying to FBI agents probing allegations that he helped get his son a law firm job subsidized with money from a politically wired Albany law firm.
The latest scandal to jolt Albany involves Sen. Thomas Libous, a 13-term Binghamton Republican who is the Senate’s deputy majority leader, and the fallout could enter into the equation by Democrats in their November campaigns to retake the Senate after 50 years of domination by the Republicans.
Libous, who has close political ties with Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, entered a not guilty plea in federal court in White Plains Tuesday and was released on $50,000 bail several hours after U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced the unsealing of a one-count indictment against him.
Libous’ son, Matthew, 32, was separately indicted on six counts, including allegations that he blocked FBI investigators and did not report more than $280,000 in income and personal expenses paid on his behalf, including for internet dating subscriptions and casino trips.
The investigation involving Libous, 61, began four years ago in a separate corruption case in Westchester County, where testimony emerged that the veteran lawmaker sought to use his connections to get what the indictment called “an inflated salary” at a law firm for his son.
News of the latest scandal to hit Albany comes as the Republicans are going up against renewed efforts by the Democrats to retake the Senate. Libous’ generally safe seat was not considered to be in play. But all that changed Tuesday.
The indictment said the FBI in March 2010 began looking into allegations that Libous got his son a job in return for a promise by the senator to “steer future business” to the firm. Other allegations are that he got an Albany lobbying firm – identified recently as Ostroff Hiffa by the Albany Times Union – to give $50,000 to the law firm to help defray his son’s “inflated salary,” as well as the cost of a leased Range Rover for the young lawyer.
The indictment alleges that Libous “falsely stated” during his FBI interview that he could not recall how his son got the job, that no deals were made, that he was not aware the lobbying firm paid the law firm to cover part of his son’s salary, that he had no business or personal relationships with the law firm and that he never promised to steer any work to the law firm.
The firm was run at the time by since-disbarred attorney Anthony Mangone.
The indictment says that Libous covered up “material facts.”
The senator was elected in 1988 to fill the seat of retiring then-Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson. Libous, who while a senator some years ago used to have a side business hawking golf shirts and other items with Senate seals on them, has been a powerful voice for the Southern Tier, and his political muscle was used over the years on committees he chaired, including mental health and transportation.
The indictment comes less than two weeks after the end of the 2014 session, one in which Libous mixed his duties running the Senate floor’s operations with trips to Manhattan for chemotherapy to treat what began as prostate cancer several years ago but has since spread to other parts of his body. In court Tuesday, he said the cancer is terminal.
The indictment also comes a week after he warmly introduced Cuomo during a post-session trip by the governor to Binghamton.
Gannett’s Albany bureau on Tuesday posted a photograph of Cuomo speaking at the 2013 wedding reception of Matthew Libous at a Broome County lakefront location – a ceremony to which Cuomo was invited. Matthew Libous was released on $50,000 bail Tuesday afternoon after pleading not guilty.
The investigation is just the latest example of how Bharara, the federal prosecutor for the southern district, has made going after Albany corruption one of his core missions. In a statement, Bharara said Libous “took advantage of his position” by “corruptly causing lobbyists who wanted Libous’ influence to benefit their clients to funnel money through a law firm” where his son was hired. He said the charge against Libous of lying to FBI agents carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.
“Public servants should serve the public first, not themselves and their families,” the federal prosecutor said. Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said he was “saddened” to hear the news about Libous.
“I have always known Tom Libous to be a hardworking and outstanding representative for his district and all of New York State,” Skelos said in a statement.
A Libous spokesman late Tuesday said the senator has served with “honesty and integrity.”
“He’s innocent, and he’ll run for re-election,” the spokesman added.