New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son were arrested on Monday as part of a corruption probe that has rocked Albany.
The 43-page criminal complaint was released by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Skelos, 67, and his son, Adam, 32, have each been charged with two counts of conspiracy, two counts of extortion and two counts of solicitation of bribes and gratuities.
They surrendered at the FBI office in Manhattan at around 9.30am on Monday.
The senator is the highest ranking Republican in the state and was re-elected last year to a 16th term in office.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Skelos and his son pressured a major property developer to arrange for Adam Skelos to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy influence at the highest level in the State Senate.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Investigation Involves The Awarding of a $12 Million Contract
Investigators looking into the awarding of a $12 million contract to a real estate company that hired Adam Skelos said they captured the senator on wiretaps boasting of his power.
The complaint describes an alleged scheme to extort money to benefit the senator’s businessman son.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (pictured above) said the elder Skelos “unlawfully used his power and influence as Senate majority leader, repeatedly, to illegally enrich his son, Adam, and indirectly, himself…as alleged, father and son entered into a scheme to monetize Dean Skelos’s official position.”
Prosecutors allege Adam Skelos was paid $198,000.
2. Skelos Says He’s Innocent
In a statement released yesterday, Skelos insisted: “I am innocent of the charges leveled against me. I am not saying I am just not guilty, I am saying that I am innocent. I fully expect to be exonerated by a public jury trial.”
3. They Are Accused of Using ‘Burner’ Phones
The criminal complaint alleges that father and son tried to cover up their activities by using coded language and a “burner” phone.
They wanted “to limit possible electronic surveillance by law enforcement,” the complaint alleged.
The legal papers detail phone calls and emails between them, including one conversation in which Dean Skelos discussed with his son his power as majority leader in the current legislative session.
“I’m going to be president of the Senate,” he told Adam Skelos. “I’m going to be majority leader. I’m going to control everything. I’m going to control who gets on what committees, what legislation goes to the floor, what legislation comes through committees – the budget, everything.”
Two weeks ago, Adam Skelos complained that he couldn’t speak openly with his father over the phone, stating, “You can’t talk normally because it’s like f….g Preet Bharara is listening to every f…g phone call. It’s just f…g frustrating.”
His father replied, “It is.”
4. The Arrests Are Part of a Wider Probe Into Corruption in Albany
A federal grand jury has been hearing evidence against Dean and Adam Skelos as part of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s wider probe into public corruption in Albany.
The Skelos arrest could derail the final weeks of the legislative session in Albany. Skelos was voted temporary president of the New York State Senate in January (see video).
The Senate’s other top Republican, Senator Tom Libous, is already under indictment on tax fraud charges.
5. The Assembly Speaker Also Faces Fraud Charges
The arrests come just months after Sheldon Silver, the longtime former Assembly Speaker, was arrested on fraud and extortion charges.
Sheldon Silver is seen above giving a statement as he leaves Federal Court after he entered a plea to the latest version of a criminal indictment in Manhattan, April 28, 2015 in New York City.
The indictment against Silver alleges he exploited his power in Albany to collect $4 million in kickbacks. Prosecutors boosted charges against Silver, saying he did “certain official” favors for an investor who gave him access to high-yield investment opportunities.