Originally published on May 5, 2015, at NationofChange.org
New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, were arrested on Monday on federal corruption charges. Accused of committing fraud, extortion, and accepting bribes, Skelos allegedly abused his official position to solicit nearly $220,000 in payments to his son. After NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested in January for accepting roughly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks, Adam purchased a burner phone and naively shared the number with a confidential informant working with the FBI.
On December 20, 2010, Dean Skelos met with a senior executive, a lobbyist, and the founder of Glenwood Management, a real estate development firm. According to the complaint against him, Skelos directly asked them to send Glenwood’s title insurance commissions and other business to his son in exchange for negotiating upcoming legislation renewals. Unbeknownst to Skelos, the senior executive at the meeting would end up cooperating with the FBI and secretly recording their conversations.
After several meetings with Skelos, the FBI informant at Glenwood caused a $20,000 check to be issued to Adam from a title insurance company dependent on Glenwood for business even though Adam did no work for them whatsoever. The informant also arranged for an environmental company named AbTech Industries to hire Adam in 2011 as a consultant and pay him $4,000 each month for his father’s political influence. With financial investments in AbTech, the informant and Glenwood’s founding family had substantial influence in hiring Adam at AbTech. In a conversation recorded in February 2015 by a senior AbTech executive who recently began cooperating with the FBI, Adam admitted that he became a consultant for the company even though he “literally knew nothing about water or, you know, any of that stuff.”
When Skelos felt that AbTech was not paying his son enough money, he threatened to block Nassau County’s approval of a $12 million contract with the environmental company unless payments to Adam were sharply increased. AbTech’s CEO begrudgingly agreed to increase Adam’s payments to $10,000 each month in exchange for the contract’s approval.
According to the complaint, Skelos has been paid over $2.6 million since 1994 by a law firm where he does not appear to perform actual legal work. Instead, Skelos received payments for referring clients and meeting with them regarding legislative matters.
“As the Complaint charges, in six counts, Dean Skelos unlawfully used his power and influence as Senate Majority Leader, repeatedly, to illegally enrich his son, Adam, and indirectly, himself. And, more specifically, the Complaint, in multiple places, alleges that Dean Skelos’s support for certain infrastructure projects and legislation was often based, not on what was good for his constituents or good for New York, but rather on what was good for his son’s bank account,” stated U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “By now, two things should be abundantly clear. First, public corruption is a deep-seated problem in New York State. It is a problem in both chambers; it is a problem on both sides of the aisle. And second, we are deadly serious about tackling that problem.”
After New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on January 22, 2015, for allegedly accepting $4 million in kickbacks and bribes, Adam purchased a burner phone to avoid federal wiretaps. In his ignorance, Adam shared the phone number with the senior executive at AbTech who recently began cooperating with the FBI. In an intercepted phone call, Skelos told his son: “Right now we are in dangerous times Adam.”
“You can’t talk normally,” Adam said to his father over the phone, “because it’s like [expletive] Preet Bharara is listening to every [expletive] phone call.”
With the use of wiretaps, intercepted emails, financial analysis, secretly recorded conversations, and confidential informants, the Justice Department charged Skelos and his son with three counts of extortion under color of official right, two counts of soliciting bribes in connection with a federal program, and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. The charges carry a potential sentence of over 80 years in prison.