Crime and Courts

Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

NY Senate Leader Dean Skelos, Son Arrested on Corruption Charges

New York State Senate leader Dean Skelos and his son were arrested Monday on federal corruption charges, about three months after NBC 4 New York first reported on the investigation into state government’s most powerful Republican.

The pair were seen turning themselves in at the FBI offices in lower Manhattan Monday morning. The men face six counts including conspiracy, extortion and soliciting bribes, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court Monday.

In a statement Monday, Dean Skelos said he expects to be exonerated of the charges.

“I am innocent of the charges leveled against me," he said. "I am not saying I am just not guilty, I am saying that I am innocent. I fully expect to be exonerated by a public jury trial.”

The complaint alleges that the pair began soliciting bribes from stormwater treatment firm AbTech and a real estate developer in 2010. Under the scheme, the pair told the developer to pay Adam Skelos hundreds of thousands of dollars in order for Dean Skelos to take action on legislation that would help the company's business.

During the scheme, the complaint says, Dean Skelos allegedly threatened to block a contract between AbTech and Nassau County unless monthly payments to Adam Skelos were increased from $4,000 to $10,000.

After the firm increased the payments, Dean Skelos allegedly pressured Nassau County officials to award the $12 miillion contract to the firm, which wasn't the lowest bidder, the New York Times first reported.

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."

Adam Skelos collected about $198,000 over the course of the scheme.

NBC 4 New York first reported on the investigation into Dean Skelos’ in January. After the investigation was revealed, a spokeswoman for the legislator called it “thinly sourced” and “irresponsible,” adding that it “does not meet the standards of serious journalism.

Still, the father and son began trying to cover their tracks after NBC 4 New York’s report, the complaint alleges. It’s when Adam Skelos allegedly began using a “burner” phone and began communicating with certain people via his iPhone’s video chat app, because he allegedly said it doesn’t appear as a phone call on cell phone bills.

In one conversation recorded during the investigation, Adam Skelos allegedly told his father, "You can't talk normally because it's like...Preet Bharara is listening to every... call. It's just...frustrating."

Dean Skelos allegedly replied "It is."

The elder Skelos has said he would not resign his post because of the investigation.

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.

Skelos’ arrest comes less than three months after Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged for allegedly taking $4 million in bribes.

Silver denies the charges.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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