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Witness says former SUNY official deleted emails to onetime Cuomo aide

Former SUNY official Alain Kaloyeros, left, arrives at

Former SUNY official Alain Kaloyeros, left, arrives at a federal courthouse in Manhattan on June 19. Credit: Charles Eckert

Former SUNY official Alain Kaloyeros deleted more than 20 emails to and from lobbyist Todd Howe, a one-time aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, after a federal bid-rigging probe of upstate development deals surfaced in 2015, a government investigator said Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.

As prosecutors prepared to rest their case Thursday, prosecution investigator Justin Ellard also testified that Buffalo construction magnate Louis P. Ciminelli, one of the developers allegedly favored by Kaloyeros in doling out Cuomo’s upstate grants, deleted nine emails with Kaloyeros.

The testimony highlighted potentially incriminating emails the two men removed from their personal Gmail accounts between October 2015, when investigators asked Google to preserve the account records, and December 2015, when a search warrant was executed — showing what prosecutors say was consciousness of guilt.

Kaloyeros, 62, of Slingerlands, the founder of SUNY Polytechnic Institute who was named by Cuomo to head up his “Buffalo Billion” development program, is accused of wire fraud for allegedly steering nearly $1 billion in contracts to co-defendants Ciminelli and Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi of Syracuse’s COR Development.

Howe, a lobbyist with deep contacts in the Cuomo administration, worked for Kaloyeros and both of the developers simultaneously. Prosecutors say he helped Kaloyeros improve his standing with Cuomo in return for Kaloyeros tailoring bid specs for Howe’s clients, both major Cuomo donors.

In other testimony Wednesday, a former Kaloyeros aide put a new twist on Howe’s role — describing him as the “eyes and ears” of Cuomo’s office who Kaloyeros said he was required to hire by director of state operations Howard Glaser as a condition of the SUNY official getting more power when Cuomo took office in 2011.

Kaloyeros “made a case to stay on and be part of a team,” former Kaloyeros spokesman David Doyle told jurors, “which was ultimately agreed to on condition that Todd Howe would come on and serve as the eyes and ears for the governor’s office.”

The 22 emails deleted by Kaloyeros, according to Ellard, all involved Howe, whose law firm was getting paid $25,000 a month by SUNY to consult and serve as a liaison with Cuomo. They included emails passing on what Howe called “vitals” from Ciminelli and COR about developer qualifications they wanted included in bidding specifications.

In another deleted email, the investigator testified, Kaloyeros asked Howe about the proposed qualifications for Ciminelli’s company, writing, “These are not unique to Lou’s company — we need more definitive specs, like . . . X years in Y, Z number of projects in high tech, etc.”

All of the emails Ciminelli deleted involved Kaloyeros, including one in which the SUNY official gave him an advance look at bid specifications for choosing a developer in Syracuse and offering to “replace Syracuse with Buffalo and fine tune the developer requirements to fit.”

Howe, who pleaded guilty in the bid rigging scam, testified as the star government cooperating witness at the February federal trial that led to a bribery conviction for former Cuomo lieutenant Joseph Percoco. He hasn’t been called in the Kaloyeros trial because of credibility questions, but prosecutors have relied on his emails and secondhand statements.

Defense lawyers this week said they might call him as a witness themselves to put his admitted history of frauds and lying on display for the jury, but abandoned that plan on Wednesday as U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni approved admission of evidence of Howe’s convictions and an excerpt from his Percoco testimony.

The trial resumes on Thursday.

State & Region