In the last few months, there have been rumblings that Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat in New York, is planning to run for President of the United States, and hopes to unseat President Donald J. Trump. However, the conviction of his former aide may put a damper on those plans.
Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s former top adviser and a family friend to the Cuomos, once described as Mario Cuomo’s ‘third son,’ was convicted by a federal court jury in Manhattan on a number of corruption charges after eight days’ worth of deliberation. Now, he could be facing up to fifty years in prison, and the story could sink Andrew Cuomo’s hopes of being president, all because Percoco wanted more of that delicious ‘ziti.’
Joseph Percoco, at the height of his political power and influence, was essentially Governor Cuomo’s enforcer. He made sure that everything was just right for Andrew Cuomo, whether that included intimidating political opponents and allies alike or prepping a room for the Governor of New York.
But the trial laid bare the reality that the ‘dedicated’ public ‘servant’ was anything but.
Federal prosecutor David Zhou may have put it best and most succinctly when he said that “Percoco sold out his vast power, he sold out his influence and he betrayed the people of New York.”
David Zhou and other federal prosecutors accused Percoco of accepting bribes.
They further suggested that Todd R. Howe, an Albany insider, set up the bribes between various executives and Percoco.
In particular, the case was about a series of bribes paid to Percoco (via his wife) on behalf of a Maryland-based company called Competitive Power Ventures, also known as CPV.
Prosecutors suggested that Percoco was bribed by CPV via a plan concocted by Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr. and Howe.
This plan involved CPV hiring Lisa Toscano-Percoco (Joseph Percoco’s wife) to work what prosecutors called a ‘low show job.’
Essentially, Lisa Toscana-Percoco made $90,000 a year to teach a class that lasted less than two hours. She taught that class six times a year.
In other words, for less than 12 hours of labor a year, Lisa Toscana-Percoco was making $90,000, or a bit less than $8,000 per hour of labor.
That’s more than most attorneys make.
To be fair, Lisa Toscana-Percoco had other tasks to perform. She had to make a few posts each week to CPV’s social media account, sharing cartoons about energy or the names of books that pushed CPV’s agenda to children.
In exchange for the ‘low show job’ and cozy salary, Percoco helped CPV to land a state contract that would be extremely lucrative for them.
CPV wasn’t the only corporation listed in court documents, nor was it the only company to have an executive tried.
Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, executives for a Syracuse-based development firm known as ‘Cor,’ were also put on trial.
According to testimony from Howe, he brokered a bribe between Aiello and Gerardi, which was made to Percoco. The bribe helped Cor Development to avoid a union requirement on a project they were working, and even got a pay raise for Steven Aiello’s son, who worked in government.
In the end, Joseph Percoco was found guilty of taking more than $300,000 in bribes, in exchange for using his influence over Governor Cuomo to help various firms have their way.
However, some witnesses provided evidence that suggests Percoco may have dabbled in influence-peddling even after he left his job with Andrew Cuomo.
These witnesses said that they often saw Percoco in Cuomo’s offices in Albany, well after he no longer was an employee of the state. Records suggest that Percoco was spending time with Cuomo.
According to prosecutors, though, it gets worse. Much of the dealing came about due to bullying on the part of Percoco.
Perhaps thinking himself a mobster, Percoco used the term ‘ziti’ to talk about money when discussing deals with Howe.
In the end, Joseph Percoco was found not guilty of extorting ‘ziti’ from business executives, and was found not guilty of conspiracy to commit such extortion.
He was, however, found guilty of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and solicitation of bribes.
His sentence will be set on June 11, and Joseph Percoco faces up to 50 years in prison.
More important, though, is how he has tarnished the government of New York and the office of the Governor.
Joseph Percoco’ s greed not only showcased what is wrong with Cuomo’s time as Governor of New York, it highlighted precisely why he should never be President of the United States of America.