New York Senate leader surrenders to face extortion, bribery charges in federal probe

Associated Press

The leader of the New York Senate surrendered Monday to face charges including extortion and soliciting bribes amid a federal investigation into the awarding of a $12 million contract to a company that hired his son.

Republican Dean Skelos of Long Island and his son, Adam, surrendered in the morning at the FBI's offices in lower Manhattan as a criminal complaint was unsealed against them in federal court.

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According to court papers, Dean Skelos has used his powerful position as a carrot since at least 2010, taking official actions in return for payments to his son.

Authorities said some of the evidence in the case was obtained through court-authorized wiretaps on cellphones used by the father and son.

Lawyers for the Dean and Adam Skelos did not immediately return messages for comment.

The complaint said Dean Skelos monetized his position by extorting money from others, including hundreds of thousands of dollars from a senior executive of a major real estate development firm who was cooperating with the government.

Dean Skelos promoted and voted for real estate legislation sought by the developer, including some pertaining to rent regulation and property tax abatements, the complaint said.

Skelos said last month he was cooperating fully and would not resign his leadership post. He's hired an attorney in response to the investigation, which focuses on whether Skelos influenced Nassau County's decision to award the 2013 contract to Arizona-based AbTech.

Skelos' 32-year-old son, Adam, worked for the company as a consultant. The complaint said AbTech, which was only identified as an "Environmental Technology Company," more than doubled its monthly payment to Adam Skelos after the $12 million contract was approved.

AbTech says it's cooperating with authorities and is not considered a target in the probe.

"The process through which local authorities selected AbTech was comprehensive and diligent, involving several levels of Nassau County government," the company said. "AbTech is proud ... to have earned this contract after a thorough and fair review process conducted by Nassau County."

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office has not commented on the case. Bharara has called Albany a "cauldron of corruption."

Prosecutors said a news conference would be held at noon to speak about the charges brought against the father and son. Dean Skelos has represented a portion of Nassau County on Long Island in the state Senate since he was elected in 1984. He has been majority leader since January 2011.

The investigation of Skelos comes three months after former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, was accused of accepting nearly $4 million in payoffs. Silver gave up his leadership post but is keeping his legislative seat as he fights the charges. Earlier this month, Silver's son-in-law was charged in a $7 million Ponzi scheme.

Another top Senate leader, Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, has pleaded not guilty to a federal charge that he lied to the FBI about using his clout to arrange a job for his son, who was convicted earlier this year of filing false income tax returns.