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Complaint: Cuomo aide pressures company for $7,500-a-month no-show job for his wife

Two months after top Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco and his wife bought an $800,000 house in Westchester County in July 2012, Percoco's wife took a one-year unpaid leave of absence from her job as a teacher in a New York City school, according to the federal government's complaint.

Once she left her job, the couple's average monthly income fell from $12,714 to $8,594. Their monthly expenses, though, held steady at about $20,000 -- leaving them with quite a cash flow problem. Their savings was nearly gone.

In the spring of 2012, Percoco started pressuring Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr. and lobbyist Todd R. Howe to get his wife a job. That was around the same time that Kelly's company, Competitive Power Venture Holdings, had submitted papers to the state, indicating its interest in being considered for new energy projects.

"Indeed, according to Howe, from in or about the spring of 2012 until in or about November 2012, Percoco continually pressured Howe and Kelly to provide Percoco's wife a job with the energy company," prosecutors wrote.

Howe wrote to Kelly on May 31, 2012: "Spoke to Joe. He's calling you possibly tomorrow on wife issue."

Percoco wrote to Howe on Sept. 11, 2012: "Herb! Nail down that issue. Happy to have dinner or meet with you guys anytime! Thanks." Prosecutors noted that, "according to Howe, 'nail down that issue,' referred to finding a job for Percoco's wife. Howe forwarded the email to Kelly, and stated: 'Braith need to talk.'"

A week later, Howe emailed Kelly, suggesting a dinner for Howe, Percoco and Kelly the next week. "In the same email chain, Howe suggested Kelly and Howe talk the next day, 'Need to try and hammer something out for jp. Wants you and I to try and identify something he wants to try and stay removed if possible if u know what I mean,'" prosecutors wrote.
"Howe understood that Percoco wanted to 'stay removed' because it was improper for Percoco to be asking Kelly for a job for his wife, given the work Percoco had done and was doing to advocate for the power plant. Howe further understood that Percoco did not want others to know that he was asking the energy company for a job for his wife."

On Sept. 26, 2012, Percoco, Kelly and Howe had a $386 dinner -- paid for by Kelly's company -- at a Danbury, Conn., restaurant. Kelly agreed he would work on finding a job for Percoco's wife.

Later that fall, when the energy company's then-CEO and another executive "expressed concern about hiring the wife of a senior member of the governor's staff while the energy company was seeking extensive regulatory review of its power plant before state agencies, and directed Kelly to obtain an ethics opinion or approval from the governor's office before proceeding. Kelly later advised them that he had obtained, in sum and substance, an ethics opinion from the governor's office approving the energy company's hiring of Percoco's wife. Based on my review of documents provided by the governor's office and the energy company, and interviews of the executive and attorneys for the executive chamber, I learned that no such ethics opinion was ever provided to the energy company and there is no evidence to suggest that one was ever sought or prepared," a federal prosecutor wrote.

In mid-November 2012, Percoco wrote to Howe: "Herb: need to pull the trigger here. things getting bad (a reference to Percoco's financial situation). What do you think about this Thursday at my house?"

Howe wrote in a return email: "Fat boy locked and loaded ... Thursday night at the estate."
Percoco wrote back: "is he bringing the check?? LOL."
"Fat man," prosecutors noted, was a code that the two often used to refer to Kelly.
Howe wrote back: "herb -- need 7500 boxes of zitti!!" "Zitti" was a code word for money, taken from the TV show "The Sopranos," according to prosecutors.
Percoco responded: "yes 7500/month is her old salary."

Percoco's wife was given a job making $7,500 a month, working with fourth-grade students near a power plant the company was building in New Jersey. Rather than paying Percoco's wife directly, the company passed the checks through a consultant.

Percoco's wife worked no more than 15 hours a month from December 2012 to April 2014. From that point on, during the school year, she worked 16 to 25 hours a month, teaching students once or twice a week. During the summer, she worked as little as two or three hours a month, or as much as 10 hours a month. Regardless of how much she worked, she was paid $7,500 a month.

In a criminal complaint unveiled Thursday morning, nine people stand accused in a sweeping corruption case that accuses the major Buffalo Billion economic development contract being tainted by allegations of bid-rigging and bribes.


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