NEW YORK CITY — Two former close aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo were indicted by federal prosecutors Thursday on bribery and fraud charges for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from an energy company and real estate developers in exchange for approving state contracts.
Joseph Percoco served as Cuomo's executive deputy secretary and is charged with soliciting $315,000 in bribes which Todd Howe, a former aide to the governor who became a lobbyist, helped facilitate.
Also indicted were Alain Kaloyeros, president of State University of New York Polytechnic Institute in Utica. Some of the bribe money came from companies connected to Cuomo's $1 billion plan to revive Buffalo's economy and is referred to as the Buffalo Billion program.
"Companies got rich and the public got bamboozled," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Thursday.
Howe pleaded guilty and is now cooperating with federal authorities.
During the course of the bribery scheme, Percoco and Howe allegedly referred to bribe money to be paid to Percoco's wife as ziti, borrowing a term from "The Sopranos," Bharara said.
At times Percoco said: “keep the ziti flowing" and "don’t tip over the ziti wagon,” Bharara said.
Percoco was so close to Cuomo's father Mario Cuomo that he was considered a third son, Bharara said.
Cuomo is not accused of any wrongdoing in relation to this indictment, said Bharara.
In a statement, Cuomo said he was "saddened and profoundly disappointed."
Kaloyeros has been suspended without pay immediately.
"I hold my administration to the highest level of integrity. I have zero tolerance for abuse of the public trust from anyone," Cuomo said. "If anything, a friend should be held to an even higher standard."