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Emails reveal Kaloyeros' early relationship with Ciminelli in Buffalo Billion trial

NEW YORK – By September of 2013, Alain Kaloyeros and Louis Ciminelli were working hand in hand to fine-tune plans for the Buffalo Billion's marquee project.

There was one problem, though.

Kaloyeros, eager to announce plans for the massive solar manufacturing plant, wanted more detail on Ciminelli's company before finalizing the project's request for proposals.

"These are not unique to Lou's company," he said in an email, referring to the existing list of qualifications for the development. "We need more definite specs."

A few weeks later, Kaloyeros, who was overseeing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Buffalo Billion at the time, renewed his push for more information on LPCiminelli, and told company executives he was modeling his request on a similar RFP in Syracuse.

"We need to replace Syracuse with Buffalo and fine tune the developer requirements to fit," he said in an email to Ciminelli. "Hopefully, this should give you a sense of where we're heading."

By that time, Ciminelli had also received a PowerPoint presentation with detailed information about the RiverBend project, as well as preliminary diagrams and site layouts for the South Buffalo location.

Prosecutors say Kaloyeros' emails are proof that the two men conspired behind the scenes as part of a massive criminal conspiracy stretching from Albany to Buffalo with ties to Syracuse, as well.

The former owner of LPCiminelli is on trial here, accused with three others of rigging bids as part of an effort to win large state construction contracts.

Ciminelli's lawyers challenged the significance of Kaloyeros' emails and, using a prosecution chart detailing the emails, marked the ones with no reference to their client.

They did so with stickers titled, "Not Lou."

On Wednesday, prosecutors pointed to another series of emails, this one between Kaloyeros and lobbyist Todd Howe, to suggest secrecy was also on their minds.

When Howe sent an email with information about their "Buffalo and Syracuse friends," Kaloyeros, then the president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, wrote back and asked him not to use his college email account.

"Please gmail, not email," he told him.

Later, when a state development official in Buffalo raised questions about RiverBend, Howe emailed Kaloyeros and asked him to keep her quiet.

"Someone needs to explain to her the sensitivity and no mention of Ciminelli," he said at the time.

Prosecutors say the emails, many of them from the summer and fall of 2013, well before the Buffalo Billion initiative was announced publicly, reveal Ciminelli's early and significant influence over the selection process.

Ciminelli did eventually win the right to build a $750 million solar manufacturing plant in Buffalo, the project that gave rise to the criminal charges accusing him and Kaloyeros of fraud and conspiracy.

To make their case against Ciminelli, prosecutors pointed to an August 2013 email from former LPCiminelli executive Michael Laipple to Howe with a laundry list of recommended requirements for the state initiative.

"Todd, our thoughts on the RFQ," Laipple said in the email.

Anthony Giattino, a special agent with the U.S. Attorney's Office here, testified Wednesday about Laipple's email to Howe and a second email sent by Howe to Steven Aiello of Cor Development in Syracuse.

"This is what Ciminelli came back with," Howe said in the email. "Any of this relevant to you guys?"

Giattino, who analyzed the emails as part of an effort to prove the statewide conspiracy, said Howe sent his email to Aiello 37 minutes after getting Laipple's message.

Like Aiello and Ciminelli, Laipple was initially charged with taking part in the conspiracy but, two weeks before the trial began, prosecutors dropped all charges against him.

“Mike strongly maintained his innocence," Herbert L. Greenman, his lawyer, said at the time. "He was innocent, in fact. And I know he wants people to understand he did nothing wrong and he deserves to get his reputation back."

As the public corruption trial before U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni unfolds, emails are becoming more and more a part of the government's case against Ciminelli and Kaloyeros.

While some of them detail Ciminelli and Kaloyeros' mutual interest in Ferraris, they also indicate Ciminelli and Cor Development had a relationship with state officials as they drafted their requests for proposals.

The grand jury indictment against the four defendants accuses them of rigging bids as part of scheme to ensure LPCiminelli and Cor became the state's preferred developers in their cities. As part of that alleged scheme, they are accused of drafting requests for proposals that would guarantee their success.

Kaloyeros was overseeing the Buffalo Billion at Cuomo's direction.

Prosecutors, who maintain Kaloyeros was insecure about his relationship with Cuomo and wanted to please him, pointed to a series to emails supporting their theory.

In one email, Kaloyeros refers to an issue between the two men and wrote, "This is about the big guy not trusting me and not ready/willing to pull the trigger on the right thing...because of his view whether I'm fully on his team."

In a second email to Howe and one of Cuomo's top aides, he adds, "You might think this is silly, but having the trust and faith of the administration in my unequivocal loyalty, discretion and allegiance to the cause is paramount."

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