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Star witness: No explicit quid pro quo with Dean Skelos

Adam Skelos walks out of the federal courthouse

Adam Skelos walks out of the federal courthouse in Manhattan during his retrial on Monday. Credit: Charles Eckert

Dean Skelos, while an Albany power broker, never explicitly threatened to scuttle legislation that was important to a real estate company if the company failed to steer work to his son Adam, a star prosecution witness testified Monday.

That testimony from Charles Dorego of the Glenwood Management development company, seemed at odds with his account last week. Dorego said Friday that he had felt pressured by then-State Senate chief Dean Skelos to steer work to Adam Skelos or risk the senator not voting for bills key to Glenwood.

Monday, Dorego acknowledged that Dean Skelos’ support for renewal of tax breaks for real estate projects was not contingent on Glenwood giving some of its title insurance work to Adam.

Dorego’s new testimony came during cross-examination by Robert Gage Jr., an attorney for Dean Skelos, a Rockville Centre Republican. The questions concerned lucrative 421(a) tax breaks for developers of new apartment buildings, such as New Hyde Park-based Glenwood.

“Dean never said to you, if you don’t help Adam, I’m going to vote against 421(a)?” Gage asked.

Dorego responded, “That’s correct.”

“Dean never linked his legislative position to help for Adam?” Gage said.

“Not that I can recall,” responded Dorego, who testified for the federal government under an agreement that he would not be prosecuted.

The Skeloses are accused of using Dean Skelos’ position as one of state government’s three most powerful individuals to secure jobs and payments for Adam. In return, Dean pledged to support legislation needed by those helping his son, according to the indictment.

The retrial comes after the Skeloses’ 2015 convictions were reversed because of a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, which more narrowly defined the kind of quid-pro-quo bribery scheme a public official must engage in to be convicted of bribery. The high court said a public official must do more than make a telephone call or arrange a meeting.

Dean Skelos, 70, and Adam Skelos, 35, both have denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

The pair are accused of multiple quid-pro-quo schemes with three businesses that paid Adam Skelos hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, commissions and other payments. Each company needed Dean Skelos’ vote for key bills before the Senate.

Last week, Dorego, testified that he steered $20,000 of the company’s title insurance work to Adam and got him a job with an Arizona environment company, in which Glenwood executives were large shareholders.

“I was under a lot of pressure to help Adam because of repeated and intense requests from his father,” Dorego said on Monday under questioning by prosecutor Thomas McKay. “I was nervous that if we didn’t comply something would happen that would adversely affect” Glenwood.

However, later Monday, Dean Skelos’ attorney asked Dorego, “The fear is all in your head, correct?”

Dorego said, “Yes.”

Earlier Monday, Dorego acknowledged that he stood to benefit financially from Adam Skelos’s job at AbTech Industries Inc., a manufacturer of storm-water treatment products in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Dorego was to receive a cut of the sales commissions paid to Adam by AbTech and planned to share them with two other Glenwood-linked executives who also had helped secure the younger Skelos’ hiring by AbTech. “I will share my cut with you,” Dorego wrote in a 2012 email to one of the executives.

The fee agreement was never finalized, Dorego said under cross examination by Adam Skelos’ attorney John J. Kenney, despite AbTech eventually winning a $12 million contract from Nassau County with Adam’s help.

Still, the Skeloses’ lawyers pressed Dorego, who grew up in Sag Harbor, on his AbTech stock holdings and Glenwood compensation: $550,000 to $700,000 per year, including a bonus payment.

The lawyers also elicited testimony about Adam Skelos’ job skills.

“He made a good impression,” Dorego said of one meeting that he had with Adam. “He struck me as a salesman, and probably a pretty good one.”

Dorego, in another 2012 email, wrote, “If Adam cannot produce in Nassau . . . no one can” increase AbTech’s sales in the county.

The trial continues Tuesday.

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