Defense in Buffalo Billion case: Ex-school head acted fairly
NEW YORK (AP) — A former president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute and several businessmen tried desperately to hide a conspiracy to steer contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in an ambitious upstate New York redevelopment plan known as the Buffalo Billion, a prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments at a corruption trial Monday.
“The cover-up in this case proves the crime,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky said.
“There was cover-up and deceit every step of the way,” he said as he recounted evidence shown to jurors over the past three weeks.
He said it proved the guilt of Alain Kaloyeros, 62, who led the Polytechnic Institute until his October 2016 resignation, and three developers who won lucrative contracts to build projects in Syracuse and Buffalo.
Prosecutors allege Kaloyeros led a conspiracy to rig bidding in the Buffalo Billion project so that only his favored developers would be chosen. No bribes were alleged. Kaloyeros had been praised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, as a genius and the developers had all made significant donations to Cuomo’s re-election campaign. Cuomo was not accused of any wrongdoing.
When Podolsky finished, defense attorney Michael Miller rejected his arguments, saying Kaloyeros acted in good faith and committed no crimes.
He called Kaloyeros “a dynamo” and a “man of action” and said there was no effort to rig bids.
“It was a fair and competitive process,” he said of the effort to attract the best developers.
Lawyers for the other defendants — Buffalo-area developer Louis Ciminielli, 62, and Syracuse-based COR Development executives Steven Aiello, 60, and Joe Gerardi, 58 — were likely to deliver their closings on Tuesday. All have pleaded not guilty.
Podolsky urged jurors to carefully review emails in the case to see the guilt of the defendants.
He said the FBI recovered many emails that were deleted by Ciminielli and Kaloyeros after they learned that the Buffalo Billion project was being investigated.
The prosecutor told jurors to follow “the lies, cover-up and destruction of evidence in this case” to find the truth.
He said specifications for the kind of developers the project was seeking were written so that COR and LPCiminelli would be chosen.
Initially, a project in Buffalo called for the winning bidder to have at least 50 years of experience. LPCiminelli had recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. A project in Syracuse required at least 15 years.
The 50-year requirement for the Buffalo project was quickly changed to 15 years in what was described at the time as the result of a typo.
“It’s not a typo,” Podolsky said. “It’s fraud.”
“These men did not want to play by the rules,” he said. “They used their inside guy, Kaloyeros, to make sure they got what they wanted.”
The trial comes just months after a former top aide to Cuomo was convicted in a related trial.