After a bombshell indictment this morning that placed the governor’s former top aide and close friend in federal custody, U.S. attorney Preet Bharara held a press conference to describe two separate bribery and fraud schemes that led to the arrest of nine people this morning.
“The state legislature does not have any kind of monopoly on crass corruption in New York,” Bharara told reporters, before diving into an explanation of the charges against the former aide and lifelong confidante to Cuomo: “Joseph Percoco, the former executive deputy secretary to the governor, and therefore one of the most powerful people in all of New York, went on the take.”
Bharara declined to say whether it was “realistic” that Governor Cuomo would be ignorant of the schemes.
“There’s no allegation of wrongdoing by the governor in this complaint,” Bharara told the media. “The investigation, as a general matter, remains open.”
Bharara seemed to take particular relish in describing some of the downright embarrassing and far too on-the-nose language that Percoco used when persistently soliciting bribes.
“He apparently lifted language from an episode of The Sopranos, telling his co-defendant to ‘Keep the ziti flowing,’ and ‘Don’t tip over the ziti wagon.’ ”
This marks the first indictment within Cuomo’s inner circle since Bharara began investigating the governor after Cuomo shut down his the state’s investigation of government corruption in March 2014. At that time, Bharara seized the investigation’s files and began his own, continuing its work on his own, which has so far ended up with the state senate’s majority and minority leaders behind bars.
At the press conference, Bharara also explained how two men, Todd Howe, a lobbyist and former Cuomo aide, and Alain Kaloyeros, the head of SUNY-Polytechnic, crafted request-for-proposals for specific companies in exchange for favors and compensation.
They even went so far as to include a requirement for the RFP that a company making a proposal would have to have at least fifty years of experience — a requirement that only the bidding company, which had Howe on the payroll, could meet.
“The companies got rich, and the public got bamboozled,” he said.
According to the Daily News, Kaloyeros will be arraigned Friday in Albany City Court. Howe has already plead guilty as part of his cooperation with the investigation. It’s unclear when Percoco will be arraigned.
Earlier, Governor Cuomo released a statement saying that “If anything, a friend should be held to an even higher standard. Like my father before me, I believe public integrity is paramount. This sort of breach, if true, should be and will be punished.”