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Former North Hempstead councilman testifies he gave Adam Skelos $20,000 check

Adam Skelos, center, arrives at Federal Court in

Adam Skelos, center, arrives at Federal Court in Manhattan for his trial on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. Credit: Charles Eckert

Former North Hempstead Councilman Thomas Dwyer handed Adam Skelos a $20,000 check from his title company at a restaurant in 2013 to avoid the payment being linked to a politically connected developer, Dwyer testified Monday during the corruption trial for Sen. Dean Skelos and his son Adam.

The trial Monday also included testimony from the owner of an environmental tech firm who said hiring Adam Skelos would provide the company with "intelligence" from the state senator about where federal money for superstorm Sandy recovery would be spent.

Dwyer testified he gave Adam Skelos the check during lunch at the CoolFish restaurant in Syosset on Feb. 18, 2013, at the instruction of Charlie Dorego, chief counsel at Glenwood Management, a New Hyde Park-based development company with several luxury buildings in Manhattan and high-stakes business before the State Legislature.

Dwyer, 51, of Dix Hills, was one of three partners in the title company, American Land Abstract, including the grandson of Glenwood's owner.

"Charlie did not want the payment with Adam to be associated with Glenwood Management," Dwyer testified. "I just handed it to him. . . . I think Adam knew why I was handing him the check."

Indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh owned CoolFish until it closed in September -- about a week after Singh, a longtime concessionaire with the Town of Oyster Bay, was indicted on federal charges he bribed a public official to get the town to guarantee loans.

Dwyer, the co-owner of American Land Abstract, which received the lion's share of Glenwood's lucrative title business, said he didn't discuss the check with the younger Skelos, who he acknowledged had not done any title work to receive the $20,000.

When Dwyer told Dorego he gave Adam Skelos the check, he said Dorego replied: "This should get Dean off my back."

Dean Skelos, 67, and Adam Skelos, 33, both of Rockville Centre, face bribery, conspiracy and extortion charges on allegations they shook down Glenwood, environmental firm AbTech Industries of Arizona and Roslyn's Physicians Reciprocal Insurers to pay a financially struggling Adam Skelos more than $300,000.

After months of resisting Dean Skelos' overtures to help Adam Skelos, which Dorego has said eventually turned "desperate," Dorego and Glenwood's owner -- billionaire Leonard Litwin -- arranged for the younger Skelos to get the $20,000 payment from Glenwood disguised as a title insurance fee from American Land Abstract, prosecutors said.

Dorego also arranged for Adam Skelos to get a job at AbTech, partially owned by Litwin, which resulted in Nassau County awarding the company a $12 million contract for storm-water cleanup, prosecutors said. Dean Skelos helped Glenwood on tax and rent-control legislation in Albany in exchange for payments to his son, prosecutors said.

Christopher Conniff, Adam Skelos' lawyer, asked Dwyer on cross-examination if Dorego had said Dean Skelos asked for Adam to receive the check. Dwyer said there was no mention of the senator.

Abtech owner Glenn Rink testified that AbTech executive Bjournulf White was "extremely excited" about Adam coming onboard the company after superstorm Sandy hit Long Island in October 2012 because Dean Skelos was "working closely with the governor on planning" and knew "where the money was flowing."

That was a precious commodity to have intelligence, Rink testified: "If you know where opportunity is and you know where money is going to be spent, that has value. . . . To know who has the drive, desire and money is important."

Dwyer testified he initially lied to prosecutors when questioned about the Skeloses.

"I wasn't fully truthful. I told the government it was an incentive bonus for Adam," Dwyer said of the $20,000. "We were looking to hire Adam and this check would be a bonus."

Why did he lie?

"I was extremely nervous," Dwyer said. "I made a big mistake."

Later, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood admonished Welquis Lopez, a Skelos senate staffer and a former Hempstead highway commissioner.

"You've been nodding your head up and down and back and forth in what looks like a signal to the witness," Wood said to Lopez. "This is not appropriate. . . . If you nod your head one more time, I'm going to have the court security escort you out of the court."

Lopez, who had attended previous days of testimony, left the courtroom with his daughter and did not return. He declined to comment.

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