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Eight plead not guilty in Albany pay-to-play case

ALBANY – Eight defendants, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s longtime friend Joseph Percoco and Buffalo businessman Louis Ciminelli, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Manhattan Thursday to a range of corruption charges.

The case, brought by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, includes bribery and extortion charges, and has raised questions about the awarding of some of the Cuomo administration’s signature economic development projects in upstate, including the Buffalo Billion’s SolarCity construction contract won by LPCiminelli.

The case, which includes pay-to-play allegations lodged against major donors to Cuomo’s campaign, including Ciminelli and a Syracuse-area developer, also included indictments last week against Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute and the governor’s point person on several major upstate projects, including the Buffalo Billion award to LPCiminelli.

Besides Louis Ciminelli, two other LPCiminelli executives pleaded not guilty on Wednesday: Michael Laipple and Kevin Schuler.

Todd Howe, a former lobbyist involved in the Buffalo Billion and other projects, has already pleaded guilty in the case and has been cooperating with investigators since June. He has long ties to the governor or his late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, who also presided over the corruption trial against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, set a March 1 status conference for the case against the eight defendants.

The Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors said during a court appearance in Manhattan this morning that they have accumulated more than two million pages of documents and two terabytes of data in the latest corruption case to rock the Capitol.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com

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