Thursday, October 18, 2018

Former NY Senate Leader and son convicted of corruption charges in retrial

“Yet again, a New York jury heard a sordid tale of bribery, extortion, and the abuse of power by a powerful public official of this State.”

Image Credit: Richard Drew/AP

Previously convicted on charges of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy, former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son had their convictions overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell v. United States. During their recent retrial, Skelos and his son were convicted a second time of bribery, extortion, and honest services fraud counts after Skelos repeatedly abused his official position to obtain more than $300,000 in bribes and extortion payments made to his son.

On December 20, 2010, Dean Skelos met with a senior executive, a lobbyist, and the founder of Glenwood Management, a New York real estate development firm. According to the initial complaint against him, Skelos directly asked them to send Glenwood’s title insurance commissions and other business to his son, Adam Skelos, in exchange for negotiating upcoming legislation renewals. Unbeknownst to Skelos, the senior executive at the meeting ended up cooperating with the FBI and secretly recording their conversations.

After several meetings with Skelos, the FBI informant at Glenwood caused a $20,000 check to be issued to Adam from a title insurance company dependent on Glenwood for business even though Adam did no work for them whatsoever. The informant also arranged for an environmental company named AbTech Industries to hire Adam in 2011 as a consultant and pay him $4,000 each month for his father’s political influence.

With financial investments in AbTech, the informant and Glenwood’s founding family had substantial influence in hiring Adam at AbTech. In a conversation recorded in February 2015 by a senior AbTech executive who began cooperating with the FBI, Adam admitted that he became a consultant for the company even though he “literally knew nothing about water or, you know, any of that stuff.”

When Skelos felt that AbTech was not paying his son enough money, he threatened to block Nassau County’s approval of a $12 million contract with the environmental company unless payments to Adam were sharply increased. AbTech’s CEO begrudgingly agreed to increase Adam’s payments to $10,000 each month in exchange for the contract’s approval.

During that same period, Skelos solicited payments for his son through another company, Physician Reciprocal Insurers (PRI). A medical malpractice insurance firm whose existence depends on the renewal of certain New York State legislation, PRI provided Adam with a full-time job with benefits despite the fact that he regularly missed work, mistreated other employees, and threatened his supervisor.

“Yet again, a New York jury heard a sordid tale of bribery, extortion, and the abuse of power by a powerful public official of this State,” Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami said. “And yet again, a jury responded with a unanimous verdict of guilt, in this case of Dean Skelos and his son Adam – sending the resounding message that political corruption will not be tolerated.”

Previously convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, three counts of extortion under color of official right, and three counts of soliciting and receiving bribes, Dean Skelos and his son were sentenced in May 2016 to five years and six-and-a-half years in prison respectively. Although their conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a unanimous jury found them guilty on Tuesday of the same offenses.

Skelos and his son each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on Count One (conspiracy to commit extortion), a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on Count Two (conspiracy to commit honest services fraud), a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of Counts Three through Five (extortion), and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on each of Counts Six through Eight (bribery). They are scheduled to be sentenced on October 24, 2018.

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