New York Senate leader Skelos, son charged with corruption

New York Senate Leader Skelos, Son Charged with Corruption
New York Senate Leader Skelos, Son Charged with Corruption

(Reuters) - Federal authorities charged New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son on Monday with engaging in a corruption scheme, in the latest of a string of criminal cases against politicians in the state's capital of Albany.

Skelos, a 67-year-old Republican, and his 32-year-old son, Adam, were named in a six-count criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court that included charges of conspiracy and extortion.

Prosecutors said Skelos pressured a real estate developer and an environmental technology company to pay his son more than $200,000 in exchange for his support on infrastructure and legislation.

The men surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday morning. They were expected to later appear in court.

Skelos said in a statement he was "innocent of the charges leveled against me." His son's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

In the last decade, 22 legislators have been charged in Albany for corruption, according to New York University Law School's Brennan Center for Justice.

Then-New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, was charged for corruption offenses in January. This is the first time in recent history that leaders of both of legislative chambers are simultaneously facing charges.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Skelos' case showed that "public corruption is a deep-seated problem" in New York.

Monday's complaint built upon evidence secured through cooperating witnesses, wire taps and search warrants.

According to the complaint, beginning in 2010, Skelos and his son pressured a real estate developer to pay Adam Skelos, a commissioned title insurance salesman, while the company was lobbying for legislation.

Payments included $20,000 disguised as a commission and $4,000 per month from an environmental technology firm tied to the developer seeking to win government-funded contracts, the complaint said.

Campaign finance records indicate the unnamed developer was Glenwood Management. Its lawyer declined to comment.

The complaint's description of the environmental company matched a subsidiary of Arizona-based AbTech Holdings Inc (ABHD.PK).

AbTech said on Monday it is cooperating with authorities.

In 2013 AbTech secured a $12 million stormwater systems project with New York's Nassau County. The complaint said while the contract was under consideration, Skelos and his son threatened to block it unless payments were increased, resulting in Adam Skelos receiving $10,000 per month.

By February, the company had paid Adam Skelos $198,000, the complaint said, while Dean Skelos took steps to help the company.

(Additional reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Richard Chang)