U.S. News

Ex-N.Y. state university official found guilty of bid-rigging

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute was found guilty on Thursday of charges that he helped rig a 2013 bidding process for a billion-dollar development project intended to revitalize the Buffalo, New York region.

FILE PHOTO: Alain Kaloyeros (C), president of the State University of New York's Polytechnic Institute, walks out of the Manhattan federal courthouse in New York, U.S., September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Bria Webb

Alain Kaloyeros was convicted of fraud and conspiracy following a three-week jury trial in Manhattan federal court, the latest victory for Manhattan federal prosecutors in a series of corruption cases against state officials.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, whose office prosecuted the case, said in a statement that “true justice can only be achieved through independence from politics or influence, and that has never been more important than today.”

“We are absolutely heartsick over the verdict that was handed down today,” Michael Miller, one of Kaloyeros’s lawyers, told reporters outside the courthouse in lower Manhattan. “Alain Kaloyeros is innocent. He did not rig bids. Not a penny was lost.”

Miller said the verdict would be appealed.

Federal prosecutors had accused Kaloyeros of helping to fix bids for “Buffalo Billion,” an economic development project to invest $1 billion in Buffalo, the state’s second largest city.

They said Kaloyeros worked to steer lucrative contracts to Buffalo-based developer LPCiminelli and Syracuse, New York-based COR Development Co. According to the prosecutors, the two companies were hand-picked in advance, and public requests for bids were tailored to them.

“The jury has spoken and justice has been done,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement about the verdict. “There can be no tolerance for those who seek to defraud the system to advance their own personal interests.”

Former LPCiminelli executive Louis Ciminelli and former COR executives Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, who went to trial alongside Kaloyeros, were also convicted on Thursday of taking part in the scheme.

“We are devastated” by the verdict, said Stephen Coffey, a lawyer for Aiello. “How you convict somebody with no victims is beyond me.”

Paul Shechtman, a lawyer for Ciminelli said he was “deeply disappointed.”

Milton Williams, a lawyer for Gerardi, said the verdict would be appealed.

Aiello and Gerardi were previously defendants in a separate trial in which they were accused of bribing Joseph Percoco, a top former aide to Cuomo, to win favorable treatment for COR.

Percoco was found guilty on multiple corruption charges. Aiello was convicted of one count of conspiracy, while Gerardi was acquitted. [nL1N1QV18F]

The cases were among a series of high-profile corruption cases brought by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who also prosecuted former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and New York Senate majority leader Dean Skelos. Both were found guilty in 2015 but had their convictions overturned on appeal.

Silver, a Democrat who represented Manhattan’s Lower East Side, was retried and found guilty on May 11. [nL1N1SI1YA]

A retrial for Skelos, a Republican, ended this week, and a jury is currently deliberating on the charges against him.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Diane Craft