March 13, 2018 / 5:17 PM / 5 months ago

Ex-aide to New York Governor Cuomo found guilty of taking bribes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was found guilty by a Manhattan jury on Tuesday of agreeing to take bribes from executives at two companies seeking to do business with the state government, federal prosecutors said.

FILE PHOTO: Joseph Percoco (L), former aid to New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, walks out of the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York, September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Bria Webb

The verdict against Joseph Percoco is the highest-profile federal corruption conviction in New York since the 2015 convictions of two former leading state legislators, which were later overturned. Percoco’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Cuomo, a Democrat who is up for reelection this year, has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Percoco was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges in November 2016. Prosecutors said he took bribes from Peter Galbraith Kelly, an executive at the energy company Competitive Power Ventures, and from Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, founders of the real estate company Cor Development.

The three executives were on trial alongside Percoco. Aiello was found guilty on Tuesday of one count of conspiracy, while Gerardi was acquitted of all charges, Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors, said. The jury said it was deadlocked on charges against Kelly. Lawyers for Aiello, Gerardi and Kelly could not immediately be reached.

Prosecutors have said that Kelly bribed Percoco by giving his wife, Lisa Percoco, a mostly no-show job that paid $90,000 a year for three years in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to win favorable treatment from state officials for two power plant projects.

They said Aiello and Gerardi paid cash bribes through shell companies to get favorable treatment for development of a parking lot.

The nearly six-week trial took an unexpected turn in early February when the prosecutors’ star witness, former Cuomo aide Todd Howe, was arrested after admitting on the witness stand that he had violated his cooperation agreement.

Aiello and Gerardi are expected to face a second trial on separate charges that they took part in a bid-rigging scheme involving a billion-dollar development project in Buffalo, New York.

The case is one of a series of high-profile corruption prosecutions launched by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and former state Senate leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, were both convicted of taking bribes in 2015, but their convictions were overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

Prosecutors have said they plan to try both men again.

Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas

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