State and federal law enforcement officials are executing search warrants to gather evidence in a probe involving former Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Pigeon and former Buffalo First Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, according to law enforcement sources.
The sources say that the home of Christopher Grant, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, is also being searched.
Investigators with the FBI, state police and the state attorney general’s office are carrying out the search warrants.
A search of the Admirals Walk condominium of Pigeon and of the East Aurora home of Casey is underway, and a third is planned for the home of Grant in Akron, according to law enforcement sources.
Investigators went to Pigeon’s waterfront condo late Thursday morning and combed through documents, boxes and computer information.
Pigeon was seen leaving the Admiral’s Walk building at 11:35 a.m. His lawyer stayed behind to supervise the removal of the materials.
“We are disappointed that the attorney general’s office tipped off the press about the criminal search warrant,” said Kevin Burke, Pigeon’s attorney.
In response to allegations of criminal wrongdoing related to Pigeon’s fundraising efforts, Burke said, “There’s no merit to it, and he’ll be vindicated when the facts come out.”
Dennis C. Vacco, Pigeon’s attorney, said he has repeatedly offered the full cooperation of his client to investigators.
“We’re surprised and disappointed in the search warrant for Steve’s residence,” Vacco said. “I have personally previously expressed my client’s willingness to fully cooperate. Up until this point in time, my solicitations of cooperation have been ignored.”
Vacco added that it is his understanding subpoenas have been issued to those who have donated funds to the WNY Caucus, which has ties to Pigeon.
“I believe that every person or entity that made a contribution to the WNY Progressive Caucus received a subpoena,” Vacco said. “From our perspective, there was nothing illegal about the contributions and certainly nothing illegal about the expenditures of the caucus.”
The search warrant was signed at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Investigators are expected to be at Pigeon’s residence sorting through belongings for hours. There is a state trooper posted outside the door of his corner residence on the tenth-floor of the building preventing anyone from getting close to the residence.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, expressed shock that his chief of staff was under investigation.
“This is a complete shock and news to me,” he said of Grant. “I know of no reason they would be investigating my chief of staff, and I don’t expect there would be any wrongdoing, but like any investigation, it has to play itself out.”
But Collins said he was not surprised by the developments regarding Pigeon.
“Anyone in Western New York knows that Steve Pigeon has never been a financial supporter of my congressional campaigns,” the congressman said. “Steve is a political operative who has been active in Western New York politics for decades. I was certainly aware there has been an investigation of him ongoing for some time.”
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has reportedly been looking into the campaign fundraising activities of Pigeon since last year. Among the entities being looked at is the WNY Progressive Caucus, which Pigeon has been involved with to spread money around to various political causes.
The state Board of Elections last year voted to approve an investigation into the political committee.
Pigeon was in Albany last week. Pigeon would only say he was at the Capitol on business.
Pigeon is a registered lobbyist in Albany, with clients including the Seneca Nation of Indians and a Niagara County firm attempting to win the bidding to become one of the state’s first growers and distributors of medical marijuana.
Casey, a longtime political associate of Pigeon, was chief of staff to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. Casey left the Brown administration in 2014 to join a developer, Scott Congel, who is involved in a West Seneca real estate project.
A spokesman for Schneiderman declined to provide details.
“There is an ongoing investigation. We have no further comment,” said Damien LaVera, the Schneiderman spokesman.
Maureen Dempsey, a spokesperson for the Buffalo office of the FBI, confirmed a search warrant was executed at 35 Park Lane South on Thursday morning. The house is owned by Casey.
The raids were conducted as part of a joint investigation involving the FBI, state attorney general’s office and State Police.
News Staff Reporter Sandra Tan contributed to this report. email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org