Joseph Percoco, once known as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political and physical muscle man and one of the most powerful figures in New York State, will face as-yet unspecified federal charges tomorrow courtesy of crusading U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Percoco, the governor’s former executive deputy secretary, will be just one of several figures arrested on still unknown charges in relation to an alleged bribery and kickback scheme, according to the Journal. Percoco served under Cuomo’s father and has been close to the governor for much of his life—so much so that Cuomo has described him as a brother.
As the governor’s hulking enforcer, Percoco pushed the executive agenda in Albany and personally obstructed Cuomo’s longshot primary challenger Zephyr Teachout from getting close to the incumbent at the 2014 Labor Day parade. He also managed Cuomo’s re-election campaign that year, which may be part of what has landed him in trouble.
Mr. Percoco had taken a sabbatical from his job at the state to handle the political effort, and later reported having received income during that time from two entities with business before the state: COR Development, a construction firm based in Syracuse, and CHA Consulting, an engineering firm from Albany.
Both are tied to one of the governor’s most ambitious economic development programs, the Buffalo Billion, intended to revive the struggling Western New York industrial city.
Late one Friday afternoon in April, the governor’s office released a statement admitting certain contractors may have “deceived” and “defrauded” the state—and acknowledged that “former state employees” might have engaged in “self-dealing” and “improper lobbying.” Percoco had left the state payroll at the end of 2015 to take a job with Madison Square Garden.
The administration had simultaneously ordered state agencies to sever contacts with lobbyist Todd Howe, who had worked under Cuomo during his time at the U.S. Department of Housing and urban Development during the 1990s and who had maintained an office at the SUNY Polytechnic campus, a key player in the Buffalo Billion initiative. The governor also barred employees from communicating with Competitive Power Ventures, a Maryland-based alternative energy firm that had donated heavily to his campaign.
According to the Journal, Howe is now cooperating with Bharara.
Cuomo also placed former federal prosecutor Bart Schwartz in charge of an internal “review” of state contracts, provoking speculation that he was hoping to head off Bharara’s probe.
In the past year, Bharara has brought down ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos—two-thirds of the infamous “three men-in-a-room” arrangement that runs New York State, a power structure which the prosecutor has railed against. The final piece of that trio is, of course, Cuomo himself.
But Bharara has only a limited window in which to make his case against Percoco. U.S. attorneys are presidential appointees, and each administration usually likes to install its own handpicked prosecutor in command of the powerful and prominent New York jurisdictions.