Executives at Buffalo, N.Y.-based contractor LPCiminelli and developer COR Development, Syracuse, N.Y., were indicted Nov. 22 on charges of bribery, corruption and fraud in the award of hundreds of millions of dollars in construction contracts.
The seven executives, along with another from an energy company, were indicted of bribing Joseph Percoco, a former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Percoco was indicted, too. Cuomo was not not named in the indictment.
The LPCiminelli executives—Louis Ciminelli, chairman and CEO; Michael Laipple, president; and Kevin Schuler, senior vice president—were charged with paying Alain Kaloyeros, then president of the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, Albany, to rig the bidding process in favor of the company related to work in the state-funded "Buffalo Billion" initiative. The program included construction of the huge SolarCity plant in western New York.
Arraignment is set for Dec. 1 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The three LPCiminelli executives had pleaded not guilty when a criminal complaint was filed in September by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. They now are charged with two counts of wire-fraud conspiracy and bribery. Daniel Oliverio, attorney for two of the LPCiminelli employees, said in September that they would plead not guilty "if and when" they are indicted.
The indictments involve two wide-ranging and overlapping criminal schemes, said the document filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
LPCiminelli provided construction management and general contracting services, which ultimately was worth $750 million, to repurpose the former Republic Steel factory site into the largest solar-panel factory in the Western Hemisphere. The contractor ranks at No. 120 on ENR's list of the Top 400 Contractors, reporting about $614 million in 2015 revenue.
The project, soon due for completion, is the centerpiece of Buffalo Billion, an investment plan that Cuomo announced in his 2012 State of the State speech.
New York agreed to commit $750 million in taxpayer funds to the project, $350 million to build the factory and $400 million to buy the equipment. The latter amount comprises a $150-million tax credit and $250 million in funding from the New York Power Authority and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
California-based SolarCity committed to investing $5 billion in equipment, which it would keep, and in payroll, both direct and indirect, over 10 years.
The state will own the factory and the equipment it buys. SolarCity will lease the facility and the equipment for $1 a year for 10 years.
Further, Braith Kelly, a senior vice president at Competitive Power Ventures; Steven Aiello, president of COR Development, Syracuse, N.Y.; and Joseph Gerardi, an attorney with COR, have been indicted for orchestrating a scheme to pay bribes to Percoco for his help in obtaining state contracts. COR was awarded $105 million worth of projects in Syracuse, the indictment said.
The nonprofit real estate corporation associated with SUNY Polytechnic issued two requests for proposals related to Buffalo Billion—one for Syracuse and another one, which appeared to be open, in Buffalo—but the two companies had been preselected to win the contracts.
Kelly is charged with seeking influence to win a $100-million power agreement with the state that would help the company to gain financing to build the $900-million Valley gas-fired unit in Wawayanda, N.Y.