The crackdown on corruption in Albany continues: this morning, New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was arrested, along with his son, Adam, on a litany corruption charges. This comes a little more than three months after State Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver was arrested, meaning that of the “three men in a room” who wield the most power in state politics, only one remains unscathed. Has anyone checked on Governor Cuomo this morning?
The six-count criminal complaint accuses the Skeloses of conspiracy, extortion, wire fraud, and bribe solicitation. The charges stem from an investigation into Adam Skelos’s business dealings, most notoriously with an Arizona environmental organization called AbTech Industries, who were awarded a storm-water treatment contract in Nassau County despite not being the low bidder. The Times reported last month that payments made by AbTech to Skelos (and by a title insurance company that Skelos had never worked for) were the subject of a corruption inquiry.
Although neither company was named in the 43-page indictment (which you can read, in its entirety, here), it does reveal that federal authorities were able to gain the cooperation of two executives from businesses that had paid Adam Skelos approximately $220,000 in exchange for contracts and favors. As the Times reported this morning:
One was an executive at a prominent Long Island real estate firm; the other, who worked at AbTech, secretly recorded conversations, including some with Adam Skelos — who, at one point, used a disposable phone in an unsuccessful effort to avoid government surveillance.
In one taped conversation, Adam Skelos acknowledged that he got the job with AbTech even though he “literally knew nothing about water or, you know, any of that stuff.”
The charges against the Senator are inextricably related to those against Adam. If Adam was the tool, Dean was the power wielding it. The complaint alleges a “scheme by defendant Dean Skelos, the New York State Senate Majority Leader, and his son, defendant Adam Skelos, to monetize Dean Skelos’s official position by extorting money from others for Adam Skelos, with the expectation that such payments would influence the official actions of Dean Skelos.”
The indictment was filed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who also indicted Silver, in January, and sued the city over Rikers Island conditions. When Bharara announced the charges against Silver, he implied there was yet more government clean-up to come, calling Albany a “cauldron of corruption” about which New Yorkers should “get angry.”
In addition to leaning on crooked corporate executives, the feds utilized wiretaps, seized emails, and intercepted calls to build their case. The Skeloses communicated via “burner” phones using “coded language” so as to “limit possible electronic surveillance by law enforcement,” the complaint said. In one particularly rich exchange intercepted on March 28th, the younger Skelos grouses: “You can’t talk normally because it’s like fucking Preet Bharara is listening to every fucking phone call. It’s just fucking frustrating.”
Senator Skelos responded, “It is.”
It isn’t yet known if the Senator, who has served in the Senate since 1984 and as majority leader since 2008, will step down.
Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.