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A guide to political corruption probes in New York State

Former Democratic Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison last week; former Republican majority leader Dean Skelos of the State Senate is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday. But investigations of possible corruption are under way in several other high-profile cases – including close Cuomo allies linked to his Buffalo Billion economic initiative. Here is an update on where they all stand.

G. Steven Pigeon, statewide political operative and former Erie County Democratic chairman


(News file photo)

What we know: Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman raided Pigeon's home and two others last May 28. The case rekindled in recent days when state and federal investigators quizzed a State Supreme Court justice based on evidence gleaned from emails found on Pigeon’s confiscated computer.

Who’s involved: Law enforcement also seized computers from Steven M. Casey, the former Buffalo deputy mayor, and Christopher M. Grant, former aide to Rep. Chris Collins. Justice John A. Michalek is now implicated with possible connection to a case in his courtroom. Some of the area’s top lawyers are also involved in anticipation of possible criminal charges.

Where it stands: A grand jury is expected to convene Monday and examine evidence and decide whether to pursue charges.


Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York

(New York Times file photo)

(New York Times file photo)

What we know: Media reports indicate the state Board of Elections found “reasonable cause” to prosecute his political operation for possible coordination in circumventing donation limits in various upstate Senate races during 2014.

Who’s involved: De Blasio’s political operation, which hoped to establish a friendly Democratic majority in the Senate, enlisted Democratic committees in Ulster and Putnam counties to accept legally higher contributions from unions and wealthy individuals. Probe will determine if donors and candidates illegally coordinated their campaigns.

Where it stands: The flow of political money is now under investigation by three prosecutors: Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and interim Erie County acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. The new interest of Flaherty surrounds money donated and spent in 2014 for the Senate campaign of Democrat Marc C. Panepinto of Buffalo.


The Buffalo Billion

Workers in lifts outside a portion of the enormous Solar City facility under construction at RiverBend, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Workers in lifts outside a portion of the enormous Solar City facility under construction at RiverBend, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

What we know: Bharara is probing possible outside income deals involving figures close to Andrew M. Cuomo regarding the governor’s signature economic development program that is fueling the RiverBend manufacturing complex for SolarCity and other job creation efforts. Bharara is also looking at how state contracts were awarded.

Who’s involved: Bharara is scrutinizing former Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco to determine if the Cuomo friend and his wife received tens of thousands of dollars from a design and engineering firm involved in the Buffalo Billion. Longtime aide and current Washington lobbyist Todd Howe is also under Bharara’s lens, as are two companies involved in the project: CHA Inc. of Albany and Cor Development of Syracuse.

Additionally, the state attorney general is investigating Alain Kaloyeros, a key figure in the Buffalo Billion, over a contract awarded for a new dormitory building at the public college he runs in Albany.

Where it stands: The governor has ordered his own internal investigation after subpoenas arrived in his office a few days ago. The federal government is examining the contract awards process, as well as in other state projects.


Marc C. Panepinto, Democratic senator representing the 60th District

(Derek Gee/News file photo)

(Derek Gee/News file photo)

What we know: A state ethics agency launched an initial probe in March of the Buffalo Democrat’s office for undisclosed reasons, following the resignation of four Senate staffers since December. Panepinto, after raising campaign funds and fighting for the Democratic endorsement, unexpectedly announced March 15 he would not seek re-election.

Who’s involved: Unknown, though Panepinto and his office staff are expected to be quizzed.

Where it stands: The Buffalo News reported in March that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics began probing Panepinto’s office, but no further information has surfaced. Panepinto has refused to confirm or deny any knowledge of the probe.


Some high-profile investigations have already been completed.


Sheldon Silver, former Democratic speaker of the Assembly

(New York Times file photo)

(New York Times file photo)

Conviction: He was convicted in November of bribe-taking, extortion and money-laundering.

Sentence: Last week, he received 12 years in federal prison and almost $7 million in fines and forfeitures.


Dean G. Skelos, former Republican majority leader of the State Senate

(New York Times file photo)

(New York Times file photo)

Conviction: He was convicted in December of bribery, extortion and conspiracy along with his son, Adam B. Skelos.

Sentence: Scheduled for Thursday.

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