Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli was accused Thursday of corruption in connection with Buffalo Billion contracting. A criminal complaint by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Ciminelli and two employees conspired on “a scheme to defraud” Fort Schuyler Management Corp., a state university-created entity that helps run the Buffalo Billion and other upstate projects. The complaint said the bidding process won by LPCiminelli was “secretly tailored” and accused Ciminellli and his employees of “willfully and knowingly” paying bribes to a SUNY official.
Here are key excerpts from the 79-page criminal complaint, unsealed Thursday morning, that refer to Ciminelli:
"Based on my review of emails, publicly available and other documents, and interviews with, among others, Howe, I learned that throughout 2013 and 2014, LOUIS CIMINELLI, MICHAEL LAIPPLE, and KEVIN SCHULER, the defendants, caused the Buffalo Developer to pay Howe as a "consultant" knowing that he was acting as an agent and representative of CNSE and intending for him to use his official position for their benefit, as set forth below.
"In or around January 2013 -- just as the Buffalo Developer began seeking large State contracts through the Governor's Buffalo Billion initiative -- SCHULER, on behalf of the Buffalo Developer, entered into an agreement with the Law Firm, through which the Government Relations Firm would provide "strategic advice and counsel regarding business generation initiatives across New York State." ... In return for Howe's services, the Buffalo Developer agreed to pay $100,000 per year. Prior to this agreement, the Buffalo Developer had not retained or paid any money to Howe or the Government Relations Firm.
"I believe, based on my review of emails and interviews with, among others, Howe, that before and during the time in which CIMINELLI, LAIPPLE, and SCHULER caused the Buffalo Developer to pay Howe, they knew that Howe was an agent of CNSE who had substantial influence with ALAIN KALOYEROS ... the President of CNSE and a board member of Fort Schuyler.
"In particular, Howe has stated that, in or around the end of 2012, he approached CIMINELLI and told CIMINELLI, in substance and in part, that he (Howe) was acting on behalf of the Office of the Governor and CNSE, which were looking for help in creating large development projects in the Buffalo area. CIMINELLI, LAIPPLE, and SCHULER' s knowledge that Howe was acting as an agent and representative of CNSE has been corroborated by, among other things and as noted above, an interview of a principal of another development company who worked with Howe, interviews with certain State employees, and emails in which Howe forwarded to LAIPPLE and SCHULER communications with KALOYEROS and other individuals associated with CNSE in which internal CNSE business was discussed."
"Between in or around December 2009 and January 2014, CIMINELLI and his immediate family members contributed at least $100,000 to the Governor's election campaigns. Additionally, in or around November 2013 – when the Buffalo Developer's bid to become a preferred developer was under consideration by Fort Schuyler, as described below – CIMINELLI hosted a fundraising dinner for the Governor, at which approximately $250,000 was raised.
"Further, JOSEPH PERCOCO, a/k/a "Herb," ... made specific requests to Howe for both the Syracuse Developer and the Buffalo Developer to make donations to the Governor's campaign, and Howe relayed those requests to the Syracuse Developer and the Buffalo Developer. For example, on or about November 12, 2013, PERCOCO wrote an email to Howe, in which PERCOCO stated that a commitment by CIMINELLI to host the fundraising dinner described above in which $175,000 would be raised for the Governor's re-election campaign "does not work Herb," because CIMINELLI had previously committed to a higher amount. As noted, the dinner ultimately raised approximately $250,000."
"In 2013, ALAIN KALOYEROS ... and Howe developed a plan to identify preferred developers for potential construction projects associated with CNSE in Syracuse and Buffalo, New York. This plan was motivated, in part, by the announcement of the Governor, in or about January 2012, that the State would invest $1 billion in Buffalo, New York. This plan included issuing two requests for proposal (the "RFPs"), one for Syracuse (the "Syracuse RFP) and one for Buffalo (the "Buffalo RFP"), that would give the appearance of an open competition to choose "preferred developers" in Syracuse and Buffalo.
"However, the Syracuse Developer and the Buffalo Developer had been preselected by KALOYEROS and Howe to become the preferred developers in Syracuse and Buffalo, respectively, after the Syracuse Developer and the Buffalo Developer had each made sizable contributions to the Governor and had begun paying Howe for Howe's access to the Governor and for Howe's influence over the RFP processes.
"These preferred developer contracts were particularly lucrative for the Syracuse Developer and the Buffalo Developer, as the Syracuse Developer and the Buffalo Developer were then entitled to be awarded future development contracts of any size in Syracuse or Buffalo, respectively, without additional competitive bidding, and thus without competing on price or qualifications for particular projects. In order to award these valuable deals to the Syracuse Developer and Buffalo Developer, KALOYEROS and Howe manipulated the RFP process to prevent Fort Schuyler from receiving or being able to fairly consider competing bids."
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