Armed with search warrants, investigators are conducting raids at the homes of three key political figures in Western New York.
According to reports, state and federal law enforcement executed search warrants at the homes of former Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Pigeon, former Buffalo First Deputy Mayor Steve Casey and Christopher Grant, who serves as chief of staff to Rep. Chris Collins.
The locations are Pigeon's downtown residence on Admiral's Walk, a home owned by Casey in East Aurora and Grant's Akron home.
Buffalo FBI spokeswoman Maureen Dempsey has confirmed for WBFO News search warrants were issued to those homes. No one has been arrested.
The State Attorney General's Office has reportedly been investigating the campaign fundraising of Pigeon. But the AG is not commenting on the searches at this time.
Pigeon lawyer Kevin Burke says there are no charges. Burke says the warrants do say what the possible legal violations are, but those warrants have been sealed and lawyers told not to talk about the contents.
The matter is believed to have arisen from Pigeon's activities with a local political action committee, although there have long been allegations about his campaign finance activities.
While Pigeon has long had a reputation of skating close to the edge in his activities as a lawyer, political advisor and lobbyist, until now, the closest to serious difficulty was in 2009 when a probe by the Erie County District Attorney's office started with some prominent political figures who pleaded guilty. Then-Deputy DA Mark Sacha wanted to go further.
"I was asked to investigate possibility of crimes that occurred during the election. I did that. Several people were convicted including Paul Clark, who was the former supervisor of West Seneca. But, I also wanted to go further and prosecute several individuals, including Steve Pigeon," Sacha told WBFO.
Prominent local defense lawyer Terry Connors, who is not currently involved in the case, says obtaining warrants in state or federal courts requires limited evidence.
"A search warrant requires an independent, impartial magistrate to view evidence and make a judgment as to whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. That's all. Certainly not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Basically, you have to have more than a hunch, but not solid proof of a crime," Connors says.
Connors says the warrants can be challenged later on in the court process, either on evidence used to obtain them or that the information used by law enforcement in their investigation wasn't true or accurate.