Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Potential to rip lid off Albany corruption as feds tapped phone of powerful NY State Republican Skelos for months prior to charges that he sold clout in exchange for jobs and payments-NY Post

6/1/15, "Feds tapped Dean Skelos’ phone for months," NY Post, Josh Saul

"The feds tapped state Sen. Dean Skelos’ cellphone for more than two months before busting him and his son in a pay-to-play scheme, it was revealed Monday — news that’s sure to make Albany squirm.
The former Senate majority leader, 67, and his son, Adam Skelos, 32, both pleaded not guilty at a brief Manhattan federal-court proceeding in which prosecutors revealed the 2¹/₂-month wiretap.

Prosecutors have charged the men with selling the powerful Republican’s clout in exchange for jobs and payments for the son, in just the latest instance of alleged Capitol corruption.

Insiders say the wiretap has lawmakers nervous because of its potential to rip the lid off the sleazy — and possibly illegal — way deals are made in Albany.

Adam Skelos’ phones also were tapped: one for four months and the other for a month.

Roughly 2,400 recorded audio files and additional text messages from the pair, as well as “millions of pages” of discovery — mostly e-mails — will be turned over to the defense, prosecutors said.

Some of Adam Skelos’ calls have already been published in court papers.

“You can’t talk normally because it’s like f- -king Preet Bharara is listening to every f- -king phone call,” Adam whined to his dad about the US attorney March 28, according to the criminal complaint.
“It’s jus​t f- -king f​r​ustrating​,” Adam Skelos said.​

Judge Kimba Wood ordered the principals to return to court July 30 to discuss scheduling a trial date. Both Skelos declined to comment after their arraignment.

A federal grand jury indicted Dean and Adam Skelos last week on six corruption counts.

“Dean Skelos attempted to secure and did secure hundreds of thousands of dollars for Adam Skelos, including . . . over $100,000 in payments and health benefits from a medical-malpractice insurer who provided Adam Skelos with a no-show job while actively lobbying Dean Skelos on legislative matters,read the 22-page indictment.

The indictment also divulged for the first time that Dean Skelos allegedly threatened to punish real-estate companies that didn’t pump cash into his campaign coffers.

The indicted pol resigned from his leadership position a week after he was arrested last month, but still remains in the Long Island seat he’s held for 30 years.

The feds charge Dean Skelos wielded his power to obtain about $320,000 for his son, including $100,000 in payments and health benefits from the Long Island medical malpractice insurance firm, $200,0000 from AbTech Industries in Arizona and $20,000 from the Glenwood Management realty firm in Manhattan."


Failed Skelos AbTech deal aimed to exploit Sandy storm "reconstruction efforts":

4/24/15, "With Dean Skelos’s Son Aboard, AbTech Seemed Confident in Bid for Nassau County Contract," NY Times, Thomas Kaplan
"But AbTech and AEWS Engineering saw the potential for big business in the county. In November 2012, just after Hurricane Sandy struck, the companies prepared a 28-page “unsolicited conceptual proposal” meant to “assist Nassau County in its reconstruction efforts.
The proposal was addressed to the Public Works Department, and its cover included the county’s seal. It suggested installing AbTech’s sponge product in pipes to remove pollutants from storm water.
In January 2013, according to another document, AEWS developed the language that the county could use to shape a request for proposals for a storm-water treatment system that would follow along the lines of what the companies had originally proposed.
Specifically, that language called for the county to require the use of filtration technology like AbTech’s sponge product to reduce bacteria in storm water....
Although AbTech executives heralded the county’s contract as a turning point for the company, and predicted it would lead to similar deals with other local governments, no other major storm-water projects materialized.
Nassau County has failed to secure state legislation necessary to allow the AbTech contract to be completed as originally designed. And the company has been paid only a small amount of the potential value of the contract. In fact, according to a regulatory filing by Abtech Holdings, the county was billed only about $90,000 last year.
The county, the filing showed, still ranked as the company’s biggest customer....
With scrutiny over the contract increasing, the (Nassau) county executive, Edward P. Mangano, a Republican, proposed legislation this week that would require the disclosure of lobbying activities, including those engaged in by vendors and contractors. (Democratic county legislators offered a competing proposal)."... 


Billionaire biofuel windfall looked good before indictment of NY State Republican leader Skelos:

3/2/15, "Catsimatidis trying to slip pricey biofuels mandate into budget," Fredric U. Dicker 

"With a bitter-cold winter and skyrocketing heating oil use, the GOP’s timing couldn’t be worse. Senate Republicans, under pressure from maverick supermarket billionaire John Catsimatidis, are trying to slip a “green biofuels” mandate into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new budget that could add $150 million a year to heating costs in New York, business sources have told The Post.

Catsimatidis, a Republican mayoral hopeful in 2013 and a heavy campaign contributor to Senate Republicans as well as Cuomo, is well known in the city for owning the Gristedes supermarket chain.

But he’s also the owner of United Metro Energy Corp., a large company that is putting the finishing touches on a massive Brooklyn biofuel-processing plant that will be the largest in the Northeast when it opens this fall.

Catsimatidis told The Post that his lobbyists, including the well-connected firm Connelly McLaughlin and Woloz, “are trying to get it done’’ and that he’s “hopeful’’ the biofuel mandate — forcing homeowners and businesses to use a mix of traditional petroleum heating oil with soybean- and other vegetable-based oils — will be approved this year.

He stands to make a windfall profit, both in terms of the increased value of United Metro and from the opening of a massive new market for biofuel sales, energy industry insiders said.

Senate Republicans were described by nervous business groups as moving to put the mandate into Cuomo’s budget because of Catsimatidis’ influence and heavy lobbying from Senate-connected biofuel interests, including the National Biodiesel Board, a producers’ umbrella group that includes United Metro and Midwestern soybean farmers.

Among the politically connected lobbyists hired by the Biodiesel Board is Mike Avella, former chief counsel to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau). Avella’s firm, Meara Avella Dickinson, includes Brian Meara, a key cooperating witness in US Attorney Preet Bharara’s corruption case against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

Other politically “wired’’ lobbyists pushing biofuels include Mike Trunzo, son of former Republican Sen. Caesar Trunzo and one-time chief of staff to Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau); Evan Stavisky, son of Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Queens); and Cynthia Shenker, former counsel to three Assembly majority leaders, official records show.

Asked about the biofuels mandate, [then NY State Senate Majority Leader Republican Dean] Skelos spokesman Scott Reif would say only that Senate Republicans “are now reviewing it and considering all relevant issues.’’

However, National Federation of Independent Businesses New York director Mike Durant said there’s a widespread belief that the Senate GOP is trying to convince Cuomo to include the mandate in the budget.

“Some advocates of this requirement have close ties to the Senate Republicans and they’re trying to work those relationships to get this done,’’Durant said.

Another business lobbyist said, “It’s hard to imagine that the Senate, with its Long Island and upstate members whose constituents depend on heating oil to stay warm on these frigid days, would consider mandating additional costs to benefit a well-connected New York City billionaire.’’

The biofuels mandate would require all petroleum-based heating oil sold in the state to contain 2 percent or more of soybean oil and/or spent vegetable oils, such as those used in frying foods, a supposed effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

Many business leaders, however, contend the mandate is actually an unjustified subsidy to the company of a wealthy campaign contributor as well as out-of-state soybean growers that will do nothing to address climate concerns.

Biofuels,’’ much like the ethanol added to petroleum-based gasoline, contain less energy per gallon than oil from petroleum, and therefore, add to the cost of producing heat and energy.... 

Last year, Cuomo vetoed a biofuels mandate that wasn’t part of the budget, citing cost concerns. But this year, business groups fear that the governor, who has increasingly embraced environmental causes, may allow the mandate to be slipped into the budget."


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