The SUNY official on trial for allegedly rigging bids to favor donors to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on upstate economic development projects was advised about one successful developer’s “connections to AC,” according to an email disclosed in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday.
SUNY high-tech-development guru Alain Kaloyeros couldn’t even remember who Buffalo builder Louis P. Ciminelli was, asking “Who is he?” in a May 1, 2013, exchange with lobbyist and ex-Cuomo aide Todd Howe, the $25,000-a-month adviser Kaloyeros hired to help gain Cuomo’s trust.
“The Buffalo Developer per our discussion about AC and his connection to AC,” Howe responded.
“Oh s***,” Kaloyeros wrote back. “Senior moment.”
Kaloyeros and Ciminelli are charged with rigging bids for nearly $1 billion in Cuomo’s signature “Buffalo Billions” tech-centered initiative to revive upstate, along with Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, principals in Syracuse’s COR Development. Ciminelli won $750 million in state-funded projects, and COR more than $100 million.
Ciminelli and COR have both been linked to $250,000 in campaign contributions to Cuomo, and both were clients of Howe. Prosecutors say Kaloyeros picked them and hired Howe to curry favor with Cuomo because he was insecure about his position when the new administration took office in 2011, despite his success at SUNY.
“This is about the big guy not trusting me,” Kaloyeros said in a March 2013 email complaining about Cuomo’s lack of support for SUNY funding in Albany because of doubts about “whether I’m fully on his team.”
Then, less than a month after the May 1 reminder from Howe about a Cuomo “connection,” according to emails presented by prosecutors, Ciminelli and Kaloyeros had become chummy enough after a meeting to enthuse about working to “advance the governor’s strategy” and their mutual love of Ferrari sports cars.
“Say what you will about Italy, but it is the best at making two things,” Kaloyeros wrote.
“Si certo,” responded Ciminelli. “Ferraris and food . . . and beautiful women.”
“Hahahaha,” answered Kaloyeros. “4 things then . . . And NYS leaders by the name Cuomo.”
“Lest I forget,” said Ciminelli. “He would remind me.”
Cuomo has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and testimony about campaign contributions has not yet been admitted into evidence by U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni. She also redacted the Ferrari reference from the email shown to jurors, because she has ruled out evidence of Kaloyeros’ $800,000 salary and flashy lifestyle.
The trial began on Monday. In addition to the Kaloyeros-Ciminelli emails, prosecutors on Wednesday also put into evidence more than 50 emails as part of two “timelines” showing exchanges of information among Kaloyeros, Howe and the Syracuse and Buffalo developers that the government says show bid specifications were secretly tailored for them.
Ciminelli was named as a “preferred developer” in January 2014, seven months after he began corresponding with Kaloyeros, and COR won similar designation for Syracuse in December 2013.
Howe, a cooperating government witness who testified at the March bribery trial that ended in the conviction of former Cuomo deputy Joseph Percoco, was jailed after questions about his credibility in that trial. He is not being called as a witness in the Kaloyeros trial.