Ciminelli executive pleas in corruption case

One of three LPCiminelli executives indicted on corruption charges related to the Buffalo Billion program pleaded guilty to felony charges Friday.

Kevin Schuler, a company vice president deeply involved in its political operations, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. A bribery charge was dismissed. Schuler made his plea before U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan. Under the plea, as reported by The Buffalo News, Schuler agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. He faces up to three years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Two other company officials, President Louis Ciminelli and Michael Laipple, are scheduled for trial next month in New York City. Ciminelli was a major campaign contributor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who initiated the Buffalo Billion program.

Federal prosecutors have charged that the request for proposals seeking a developer for the SolarCity plant in Buffalo was designed with one company, LPCiminelli, in mind. SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros, lobbyist Todd Howe, and the three LPCiminelli executives  worked together to “secretly tailor” the required qualifications for a developer in Buffalo so that LPCiminelli would be guaranteed to win the work, according to the complaint.

LPCiminelli earned more than $20 million in fees to manage the project, which involved the state spending $750 million to build and equip the plant.

The investigation by prosecutors – initially under the direction of Preet Bharara, then United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York – was triggered by reporting by Investigative Post.