New York Senate Leader Dean Skelos has been charged with extortion, conspiring to commit fraud, and soliciting bribes in a corruption scheme also involving his son Adam Skelos—making Mr. Skelos the second of Albany’s famous “three men in a room” leadership to face criminal charges from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
The complaint alleges that Mr. Skelos, a Republican and leader of the State Senate, sought to direct companies with business before the state to give business to his son, with the expectation that Mr. Skelos would then treat those companies favorably. Those companies include a real estate developer and an environmental technology company, according to the complaint.
The soliciting bribes charges allege that Mr. Skelos and his son had accepted “cash and things of value” worth more than $5,000 from the real estate developer and the environmental company, both with business before the state, with the intention of influencing Mr. Skelos.
The charges come just months after Mr. Bharara charged former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver with accepting what he described as kickbacks and bribes disguised as legitimate work done for law firms. Mr. Silver’s arrest sent Albany into disarray, leading to ascension of new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Mr. Seklos’ arrest will be yet another seismic shake-up in the unstable state capital.
The complaint indicates a senior executive at the real estate developer is cooperating with the government, naming him as “cooperating witness 1.”
The witness was “pressured” to arrange for Adam Skelos to be paid “hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to influence official actions by Dean Skelos,” according to the complaint, with the cash coming in response to a “series of demands made to Developer-1 by Dean Skelos,” including while the developer was lobbying Mr. Skelos on legislation critical to its business success.
In 2010, the developer arranged for the younger Mr. Skelos to rake in a one-time $20,000 payment for title work he did not perform, following by continuing payments of $4,000 a month from the environmental technology company that was seeking government contracts. Mr. Skelos and his son threatened to block a multi-million contract Nassau County was considering awarding to the environmental firm unless the payments were increased, according to the complaint, and the company upped the pay-outs to $10,000 a month in exchange for a promise that the elder Mr. Skelos would “take care” of them.
Mr. Skelos went on to vote favorably to the real estate industry on rent regulations and tax abatements, the complaint alleges, and facilitated the awarding of the contract to the environmental firm. He also lobbied on behalf of the firm—unsuccessfully—to allow fracking in the state.
According to the complaint, the younger Mr. Skelos used a separate “burner” phone to hide the activity. The scheme was previously outlined by the New York Times.
Mr. Bharara will hold a press conference on the charges at noon. Reporters spotted Mr. Skelos walking into FBI headquarter this morning to surrender, an arraignment is expected soon.
Together with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver made up the “three men in a room” who negotiate the state budget and run much of its legislative business—a model Mr. Silver has derided. The investigation into Mr. Silver stemmed from the now-defunct Moreland Commission, a corruption-busting panel created and hastily ended by Mr. Cuomo. Mr. Bharara’s office is investigating the governor’s role in ending that commission.
Mr. Skelos’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read the full complaint below: