ALBANY – Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, is seeking to knock down a television report that he is under investigation by federal authorities over his outside income activities.
New York City’s WNBC-TV ran a story late Thursday night saying Skelos’ ties to the real estate industry are being probed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the same prosecutor whose office last week filed federal corruption charges against outgoing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
The television station did not identify its sources other than saying they were “close with the investigation."
Skelos spokeswoman Kelly Cummings responded Friday morning by issuing a statement saying: “Last night’s thinly sourced report by WNBC is irresponsible, and does not meet the standards of serious journalism. Sen. Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As such, we won’t be commenting further.”
The statement did not deny the possibility that a probe could be underway.
But hoping to end any swirling chatter that Skelos’ statement was vague enough that it left open the possibility a lawyer for Skelos might have been contacted by prosecutors, another Skelos aide later said the senator had not hired any criminal defense lawyer.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York would not comment on the WNBC report.
The report set off a flurry of late-night activities and chatter in Albany circles with the prospect, so soon after the FBI arrested Silver, that another top state official was in trouble.
Bharara last week warned that Albany should “stay tuned” for more revelations about corruption investigations his office has been engaged in for the past several years.
Bharara asked for and received a truckload of information about matters involving lawmakers that were the subject of inquiry by an anti-corruption panel called the Moreland Commission. That panel was shut down by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, without having finished its work, when the governor and lawmakers agreed to several modest campaign finance-related deals. Bharara was among those criticizing the swift closure of the Moreland panel; though he began his investigation of Silver, for instance, prior to Moreland’s demise, Bharara said his office used materials from that panel’s probe to help produce a case against Silver that alleged he engaged in a long pattern of bribery and kickbacks worth millions of dollars to him.
In his last state ethics filing in 2014, Skelos disclosed he made between $150,000 and $250,000 as an attorney at Long Island’s Ruskin, Moscou, Faltischek. Lawmakers report income ranges, not precise amounts, on their annual disclosure forms. His ethics filing said he concentrates on real estate, civil litigation, corporate and health care law.