Ciminelli federal court hearing postponed, moved to NYC

Sep 26, 2016

What was supposed to be a federal court appearance in Buffalo Monday morning by three LPCiminelli executives has been adjourned, with the case moving to New York City.

Louis Ciminelli, Michael Laipple and Kevin Schuler were originally scheduled to be back before Justice Michael Roemer but the case is being moved to the Southern District of New York, where criminal complaints against them originated. According to the clerk's office in Buffalo, the defendants are expected to appear at a time yet to be scheduled "on or before" Thursday, October 6.

Louis Ciminelli is one of nine individuals charges in what U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara calls a "pay-to-play" scheme for contracts including some tied to the Buffalo Billion.
Credit courtesy University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning

The LPCiminelli executives are among nine individuals named in a criminal complaint filed last week by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the same New York City prosecutor whose previous public corruption probes have resulted in convictions of former state legislative leaders Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver. 

Ciminelli, Laipple and Schuler are accused of participating in a "pay-to-play" scheme through which supporters of Governor Andrew Cuomo's election campaign were given an unfair advantage in securing contracts for economic development projects, including the Buffalo Billion. LPCiminelli was awarded the most ambitious project within the Buffalo Billion to date, the $750 million SolarCity construction project in the city's Riverbend section.

Ciminelli's defense attorney, Daniel Oliviero, did not return WBFO's phone call as of Monday afternoon.

Bharara's criminal complaint, announced last Thursday, includes accusations of bribery and bid-rigging. Also charged in the complaint are close Cuomo associates Todd Howe and Joseph Percoco and now-suspended SUNY Polytechnic CEO Alain Kaloyeros. SUNY Polytechnic oversaw the bidding processes of jobs brought into question by Bharara. 

Other individuals charged last week were tied to projects in the Syracuse area.

Governor Cuomo, during his appearance in Buffalo on Friday, denied having any knowledge of wrongdoing by his peers and told both a group of reporters and an audience at Albright Knox Art Gallery that his father would have been "heartbroken" had the late former governor been alive to see last week's charges filed. 

He also defended the Buffalo Billion project as a program that has positively transformed the Western New York economy and, as he defined it, is much bigger than the nine men charged.