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Cuomo's former closest aid gets 6 years for bribery

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

Governor Cuomo’s former closest aid received a prison sentence today of six years after being convicted of illegally gaining over $300,000 in bribery schemes.

Judge Valerie Caproni sided with the wishes of federal prosecutors, who sought five or more years in prison for Percoco, following his conviction on three counts of bribery for participating in two illegal schemes to enrich himself while offering illegal services to a power plant company and a Syracuse development firm.

The judge, says she hopes the sentence sends a warning message to Albany that these types of crimes will not be tolerated .

Percoco was convicted of receiving over $320,000 in illegal payments, including  a $90,000-per-year job for his wife, paid by a power company that was seeking help in starting up a plant in the Hudson Valley. Prosecutors documented in the trial that Lisa Percoco did very little work for the money.

Percoco’s lawyers argued that his wife did legitimate work for the pay and that the Percocos should be allowed to keep that portion of the money.

Percoco also got $35,000 in cash in exchange for helping a Syracuse area development company obtain back payments and special favors for building a number of economic development projects, including a film hub in central New York that stood empty for years.   

Percoco, in a letter to the judge before he was sentenced, and in brief remarks in court, said that he has “tremendous remorse” for what he did. Percoco also wrote that his poor choices were his alone, and did not involve anyone else, including his former boss and former close family friend, Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The governor’s father, the late former governor Mario Cuomo, once referred to Percoco as his third son, and Andrew Cuomo has said that Percoco was like a brother to him.   

John Kaehny is with the government reform group Reinvent Albany, and he’s been closely watching the trial. He says the conviction and sentencing of Percoco is really too little, too late. And he says there’s no “joy” in the news of Percoco’ s punishment.

“We look at it more akin to a disease, and Albany being a town that has dirty water and no health department,” said Kaehny who likens the federal prosecutors to “hazmat” teams coming in after a disaster.

“It means that you’ve already had a failure,” he said.

Kaehny’s group and other organizations have advocated for years for ethics law changes, with no success. Kaehny says he hopes that six new reform-minded Democratic State Senators elected in the September primaries might reenergize efforts for change when the legislature next meets in January.

“And, it’s an election year,” Kaehny said. “the hope is that pressure from voters will compel changes ”.

Percoco is the first of several former Cuomo associates to be sentenced for crimes including bid rigging. The former head of the governor’s upstate economic development programs, and former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros will be sentenced later this year, along with the Syracuse developers, and Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli. End- Kaloyeros, developers from Syracuse and Buffalo- also will be sentenced late this year.

Governor Cuomo did not comment on the sentencing of his former top aide. But his campaign released a television ad, criticizing his opponent, Republican Marc Molinaro, for what the ad says is Molinaro’s participation in pay to play politics, a charge Molinaro denies.

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