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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Corruption probes can be a family affair

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara addresses members of the

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara addresses members of the media during a news conference in New York on Jan. 22, 2015. Credit: AP

Fathers seem to keep casting shadows on their children in the public corruption cases presented by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Or is it the other way around?

Matthew Libous, adult son of state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton), was convicted in January of underreporting federal income.

The case stemmed from a Bharara probe of the elder Libous' role in getting his son a job at a Westchester law firm. Sen. Libous faces trial on a count of making false statements on the matter to the FBI.

Intergenerational legal troubles have since hit other targets' families.

Bharara's office this week charged a son-in-law of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), Marcello Trebitsch, with running a $7 million Ponzi scheme.

Silver was accused three months ago of taking payoffs tied to his powerful role. Formally, the Silver and Trebitsch prosecutions have not been linked.

But the Silver case cast an undoubtedly unwelcome bit of public attention on another paternal relationship in another family.

The speaker channeled state funds into cancer research by a New York City doctor, later identified as Robert Taub, who in turn referred patients to a law firm then associated with Silver, according to Bharara's office.

Given their relationship, Taub asked Silver to help his adult son find a job, authorities said, and after the speaker's intervention, Jonathan Taub found work at a nonprofit social service organization that received millions of dollars in state grants through Silver. Neither Taub is charged with wrongdoing. Officials have said the elder Taub entered into an agreement with the U.S. attorney's office requiring his cooperation in the Silver case.

Now comes word that Bharara's office is investigating Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) -- and transactions involving his adult son, Adam Skelos.

The elder Skelos said in a statement Thursday: "I have and will continue to cooperate with any inquiry."

Neither Dean nor Adam Skelos has been accused of wrongdoing.

Squeezing relatives of powerful targets -- or at least taking a hard look at them -- is a law-enforcement cliche to which Albany is no stranger.

Following the federal indictment and conviction of former GOP Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno -- he was later cleared of all charges -- a state ethics panel in 2011 found that Bruno's daughter Susan had held a $70,000-a-year job at the SUNY Research Foundation for which she "rarely if ever came to the office."

Democrat Pedro Espada Jr., another former Senate majority leader, and his son, ex-Assemb. Pedro G. Espada, were co-defendants in a federal case alleging theft of funds from the Soundview Health Center in the Bronx. They pleaded guilty and were later sentenced to prison terms. U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch prosecuted that case.

And back in 1975, Assembly Speaker Stanley Steingut was indicted alongside his son Robert on charges related to a New York City Council campaign, but the Court of Appeals threw the case out.

"The gods visit the sins of the fathers upon the children," Euripides wrote.

For today's Capitol, this could be rewritten into the much less elegant, "Alleged violations by the fathers and the children can jam up both."

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