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Ex-Cuomo Aide From Northern Westchester To Be Sentenced For Taking $300K In Bribes

Joseph Percoco, right, and Todd Howe on a 2010 fishing trip.
Joseph Percoco, right, and Todd Howe on a 2010 fishing trip. Photo Credit: U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who lives in Northern Westchester and was convicted of three felonies earlier this year is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.

Percoco, a South Salem resident, was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count of solicitation of bribes or gratuities and acquitted of two extortion charges in March related to his acceptance of $300,000 in bribes to benefit Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company that sought to build the power plant in the Hudson Valley.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing related to the Syracuse-based COR Development, which had received several sizable state projects.

Percoco was initially scheduled to be sentenced in May, but that has been postponed several times. He is due in Manhattan federal court on Thursday afternoon, where he faces jail time and may be ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution. He has been free on bail since his conviction.

According to multiple reports, letters of support have flooded Manhattan federal court from several former members of the Cuomo administration on behalf of Percoco, though the governor himself has not come forward in his defense.

Prosecutors are reportedly seeking a sentence of more than five years in prison, while his defense team is pushing for a far shorter sentence, no greater than two years. It is not clear if Percoco will appeal.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni dated Sept. 13, Percoco expressed his remorse, calling his position in public service, “the privilege of (his) lifetime.” He noted that he “regrets that (he) has brought shame and embarrassment upon (his) former colleagues.”

“I lay awake at night filled not with the fear of what is to come for me, or the pain and embarrassment that I have brought upon myself, but with tremendous remorse for my actions and regret for the damage I have caused to others. I live with those feelings and that weight every minute of every day of my life,” he wrote.

“The choices that have brought me before this court were my choices and my choices alone. Integrity and careful attention to the rules were always virtues I demanded from each and every one of my colleagues. I failed to live up to my own high standards."

The bribes were arranged by Todd Howe, another former aide, infamous lobbyist, and close friend of Cuomo, according to court papers. Howe was grilled by the defense team for several days of the trial during cross-examination, leading to his arrest after he violated the terms of an agreement of his plea bargain.

During cross-examination, Howe admitting to attempting to defraud a Manhattan hotel of $600, violating his plea, leading to the revocation of his bail on late in the trial, which began on Jan. 22. Howe admitted in court that in 2016, while in Manhattan to meet with prosecutors, he attempted to get his bank to remove the charge from his bill.

On the stand during the trial, Howe said that Percoco called the money he received in the “pay-to-play” scheme “ziti,” stating it was a reference to “The Sopranos,” according to a New York Post report. According to the report, before Howe took the stand, prosecutors unsuccessfully lobbied to play a clip from the popular HBO show before he testified.

The defense team repeatedly attacked Howe's credibility during cross-examination, showcasing how the lobbyist embezzled money, lost a near million dollar home for failure to make mortgage payments and has led schemes to defraud friends, co-workers, employees and family members over the past two decades.

In a prepared statement following the conviction, interim Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said, “Joseph Percoco was found guilty of taking over $300,000 in cash bribes by selling something priceless that was not his to sell – the sacred obligation to honestly and faithfully serve the citizens of New York.

“As every schoolchild knows, but he corruptly chose to disregard, government officials who sell their influence to select insiders violate the basic tenets of a democracy,” Berman added.

The jury nearly forced a mistrial after reaching a breaking point following nearly two weeks of deliberations. Several asked out and reported they were deadlocked as recently as two days before the conviction, but they ultimately reached a consensus regarding Percoco.

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