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Wiretaps in court show Dean Skelos’ power, influence in Albany

Adam Skelos arrives at a federal courthouse in

Adam Skelos arrives at a federal courthouse in Manhattan for his retrial, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

Adam Skelos screamed in frustration after learning Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had banned hydrofracking, a wiretapped conversation played in federal court Thursday shows.

The ban ended Skelos’ hopes of making money from legislation that his father, then-State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, could influence, according to the men’s December 2014 telephone conversation recorded by federal agents.

“This day sucks!” Adam Skelos yelled into the phone.

Dean Skelos, now 70, and Adam Skelos, 35, are accused of using the senior Skelos’ position as a legislative chieftain to extort three businesses into giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to Adam in the form of jobs, medical insurance and payments. In return, Dean Skelos promised to vote for legislation that the businesses needed, according to prosecutors.

The hydrofracking tape played for the jury by the prosecution in the Skeloses’ retrial on federal corruption charges showed the immense power Dean Skelos once wielded in state government. Two other conversations were played as well.

The father and son, both of Rockville Centre, have denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

Adam Skelos’ colorful reaction on Dec. 14, 2014, to Cuomo’s fracking ban figured prominently in the first trial as well.

Fracking, also called hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting natural gas and oil from rock formations. Advocates have said the process can produce an economic revival upstate, while opponents have said the health hazards, including contaminated water, are too great.

“Oh, my God,” Adam Skelos said in 2014 when Dean Skelos told him of the fracking ban. “How do we beat him in an election?” the younger Skelos said, referring to Cuomo.

“I’m going to run against him,” Dean Skelos said.

His son responded, “I’d be so proud if you beat his [expletive].”

The father said, “I’m going to do it.”

A year after the conversation, Dean Skelos’ career ended with his 2015 conviction on federal corruption charges.

The Skelos’ retrial in Manhattan federal court comes after their 2015 convictions were overturned 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.

The Skeloses are accused of multiple quid-pro-quo schemes involving a real estate developer, medical malpractice insurance business and an environmental company, each of which employed Adam Skelos in some way or made payments to him. The companies needed Dean Skelos’ vote for key bills before the Senate, prosecutors said.

On Thursday, Adam Skelos’ former boss at Physicians Reciprocal Insurers, a malpractice insurance business in Roslyn, acknowledged that he was unaware of some of Adam’s work activities.

PRI had hired Adam to be a $78,000-a-year salesman at the behest of Dean Skelos in return for the senator’s support of an extension of a law that was crucial to the company’s survival, according to the indictment.

Christopher Curcio, former sales and marketing vice president for PRI, said Thursday he didn’t know that Adam Skelos scheduled a sales pitch to then-Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center for August 2013.

“Were you aware that he was trying to get hospitals to sign up with PRI?” said John J. Kenney, an attorney for Adam Skelos, who showed jurors emails between his client and the East Patchogue hospital.

Curcio responded, “No.”

The courtroom exchange was part of Kenney’s argument that Adam Skelos did more work than Curcio described in his Wednesday testimony for the prosecution.

On Wednesday, Curcio, of Floral Park, testified that Adam Skelos threatened to “smash in” his head when Curcio questioned why he wasn’t showing up to work.

Later Thursday, an executive for real estate developer Glenwood Management in New Hyde Park testified that he was surprised when Dean Skelos asked Glenwood to send some of its title insurance business to Adam Skelos.

Glenwood executive Charles Dorego said the senator made the request at a December 2010 meeting with Leonard Litwin, Glenwood CEO and a major Republican campaign contributor.

According to Dorego’s testimony, Dean Skelos said, “You know my son is getting into the title insurance business. If you could throw some title work his way, it would be appreciated.”

Dorego, who is testifying for the federal government in return for not being prosecuted, said he was instructed not to act on Dean Skelos’ request. He said, “Mr. Litwin thought, ‘Let’s not go there.’ ”

The retrial continues Friday.

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