Republican: 'I Am Not Saying I Am Just Not Guilty, I Am Saying That I Am Innocent'


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The leader of the New York state 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.

Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, 67, and his son, Adam Skelos, 32, surrendered at the FBI’s offices in lower Manhattan as a criminal complaint was unsealed against them in federal court, where they appeared later in the day.

WEB EXTRA: Read The Full Complaint (pdf)

In a statement, Dean Skelos said he expected to be exonerated at trial.

“I am innocent of the charges leveled against me. I am not saying I am just not guilty, I am saying that I am innocent,” he said.

A lawyer for his son did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

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

According to court papers, some evidence was obtained through court-authorized wiretaps on cellphones used by the father and son.

The complaint said Dean Skelos bragged to his son recently in one conversation after he was re-elected majority leader in January, a post he shared with another senator from 2011 to 2013: “I’m going to be president of the Senate. I’m going to be majority leader. I’m going to control everything.”

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.

“Dean Skelos’ support for certain infrastructure projects and legislation was often based not on what was good for his constituents or good for New York, but rather on what was good for his son’s bank accounts,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.

Skelos said last month he was cooperating fully and wouldn’t resign his leadership post. The state’s highest-ranking Republican has represented the 9th District of Nassau County for 30 years.

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, even though it did not submit the lowest bid for the project.

Adam Skelos 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.

“Adam Skelos, as described in the complaint, literally knew nothing about this business, but was hired and paid at least $200,000 over time because of the consistent pressure from Adam and Dean Skelos,” Bharara said.

Dean Skelos allegedly pressured Nassau County to approve the contract and to expedite payments to the environmental company, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.

In a statement, AbTech said it is 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.”

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.

Bharara, who has made investigating Albany corruption one of the cornerstones of his tenure, was more subdued than usual because judges have resented his public flamboyance. Still there were warnings of more to come, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

“By now, two things should be abundantly clear — first, public corruption is a deep-seeded problem in New York State. It is a problem in both chambers, It is a problem on both sides of the aisle,” Bharara said. “Second, we are deadly serious about tackling that problem.”

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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