NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The government’s key witness in its bribery case against a former top aide to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he participated in bribery schemes with his longtime friend.

Todd Howe began his testimony Monday morning as prosecutors try to prove 48-year-old Joseph Percoco accepted over $300,000 in bribes from three businessmen.

Percoco faces bribery, extortion and other charges. He and several others are accused of paying and accepting bribes and rigging bids in the awarding of state contracts.

Peroco’s lawyers say the longtime aide and Cuomo confidant did nothing wrong.

Howe says he joined bribery schemes with Percoco from 2010 to 2016 and claims they referred to the payoffs as “ziti.” He says he hired Percoco out of college three decades ago and considered him the closest thing to a brother he’s had.

Howe says he wanted to help when Percoco told him he had financial problems in 2014.

Howe admitted he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his employer and owed over $1 million to the IRS. Now he works as a groundskeeper in Idaho. He told the judge, “There’s a lot less pressure there,” 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.

In his opening statement, Peroco’s lawyer called Howe a congenital and pathological liar.

Howe pleaded guilty in 2016 to federal crimes including bribery and corruption. He is awaiting sentencing.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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