June 1, 2018 / 10:10 PM / 6 months ago

Prosecutors drop charges against developer in NY corruption case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors have dropped charges against a former executive at an upstate New York development company in a corruption case over a $1 billion government project, weeks before a scheduled trial.

In a filing in federal court in Manhattan on Friday, prosecutors said they would not prosecute Michael Laipple, a former executive at Buffalo-based LPCiminelli. Laipple’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Another former executive at the company, Louis Ciminelli, remains a defendant in the case. A third, Kevin Schuler, pleaded guilty last month and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Authorities have accused Schuler and Ciminelli of taking part in a bid-rigging scheme that allowed LPCiminelli to win a lucrative contract as part of “Buffalo Billion,” a signature economic development project of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to revitalize the Buffalo area.

Alain Kaloyeros, a former president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute, is also charged in the case. Prosecutors have said that Kaloyeros, who oversaw the bidding process for Buffalo Billion, worked with lobbyist and former Cuomo aide Todd Howe to rig the process in favor of LPCiminelli.

Howe previously pleaded guilty. He and Kaloyeros were also charged with rigging a bidding process for another Buffalo Billion contract in favor of Syracuse, New York-based developer COR Development Co.

Two former COR executives, Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, are also expected to be defendants in the upcoming trial, which is scheduled to begin on June 11.

Both were also defendants in a separate trial for allegedly bribing Joseph Percoco, a former top Cuomo aide, 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.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

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