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Restrictions proposed for star witness in ex-Cuomo aide corruption trial

Todd Howe became a key government witness after telling prosecutors that he set up bribes to ex-Cuomo lieutenant Joe Percoco and arranged to rig bids for upstate development deals.

Todd Howe exits federal court in New York

Todd Howe exits federal court in New York on Feb. 5, 2018, after testifying in the Joseph Percoco corruption trial. Photo Credit: Louis Lanzano

Discredited star government corruption witness Todd Howe would be barred from holding credit cards, opening a checking account or paying any bills as part of a deal to get out of jail as he awaits his sentencing, according to a new filing in Manhattan federal court.

Howe, the former lobbyist and aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo who admitted multiple frauds at the February bribery trial of ex-Cuomo lieutenant Joe Percoco, would also face tight restrictions on use of cellphones, email and texts, according to conditions agreed to by his lawyer and prosecutors.

The proposal, which U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni on Thursday scheduled for an Aug. 2 hearing, appears designed to keep Howe on a tight financial leash after he admitted at the Percoco trial to stiffing creditors most of his life and even lying about a credit card bill on a hotel stay after he became a government cooperator.

“Mr. Howe will allow his spouse to handle in a prompt and timely manner the payment of all of their household and living expenses and will not obtain or use a checking or other depository account,” said one provision.

Howe, 58, became a key government witness after telling prosecutors that he had set up bribes to Percoco on behalf of lobbying clients and also arranged to rig bids on behalf of two clients for upstate development deals with SUNY official Alain Kaloyeros, who was also a client of Howe’s firm.

But Howe was jailed near the end of Percoco’s trial when he admitted the effort to dodge a hotel bill on cross-examination. Caproni has tentatively scheduled Nov. 2 for his sentencing in the bribery and bid-rigging schemes and separately for embezzling from his law firm.

At a hearing last week, Caproni questioned why Howe was taking up jail space and signaled that she would look favorably on an application for release. He is expected to live in Idaho, where he had found work as a golf course groundskeeper before being jailed.

While much of the evidence in the Percoco case and the Kaloyeros trial — where Howe did not testify — focused on his emails and texts, under the release plan he would only be allowed to communicate electronically with his lawyer, and on medical and employment matters.

If he gets a job, he would be required to deposit all his wages in a “checking account in the name, and under the exclusive control, of his spouse” to be used for normal living expenses, and prohibited from making a purchase over $2,500 for anything other than medical and health needs.

Caproni has asked for further explanation of the need for the tight controls on electronic communication and another provision that would restrain Howe’s communication with anyone about the Percoco and Kaloyeros cases.

Kaloyeros and Percoco were both convicted. Percoco’s sentencing was postponed Wednesday from Aug. 10 to Sept. 20, a week after Cuomo faces voters in the Democratic primary for governor. The judge did not state a reason for the delay.

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