Skelos Corruption Trial: Witness Says Senator Threatened Developers For Campaign Donations

Skelos Trial
The U.S. District Courthouse for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan where the Skelos trial took place.

A lawyer said New York State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Skelos’ son, Adam, badgered him to get Adam work while the senator negotiated legislation that the lawyer’s boss wanted passed.

The lawyer, Charles Durego, general counsel and vice president at New Hyde Park-based developers Glenwood Management Corp., described how the senator reiterated his request every time they met to discuss bills pending in the state Senate that the company considered critical to their survival—and threatened to “F” real estate industry officials unless they donated money to the Republican state senator’s re-election campaign.

“I thought that it was inappropriate,” Durego said of Skelos’ requests to find Adam work as the company was lobbying the senator and was donating money to his campaign. “I was feeling an awful lot of pressure to make something happen for [Adam] at the same time we are conducting all of this government business and it made me uncomfortable.”

Glenwood is one of three companies that the senator allegedly coerced $300,000 in bribes from in the form of “no-show” jobs that Adam was unqualified for in exchange for illegally manipulating legislation. Both men deny the accusations.

Durego said that after his hope that the requests would stop didn’t come true, he set Adam up with a job at AbTech Technologies, a company that Glenwood’s owners invested in, as a way to put some distance between the developer and the senator’s son. But the AbTech job didn’t materialize quickly enough for the senator, who continued to pressure Durego for something more immediate, preferably involving Adam’s title insurance business, Durego testified.

Skelos first asked Durego and his boss, billionaire Leonard Litwin, owner of Glenwood—which donates the most to political campaigns statewide—after Glenwood donated heavily to help restore the GOP majority in the state Senate in 2010 following two years of Democratic control. That’s because in 2011, key pieces of legislation regulating the real estate industry were up for renewal, as they are every four years: one involving rent control, the other involving the so-called 421a program that Durego described as providing crucial tax breaks, without which constructing new buildings doesn’t make “economic sense.”

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to renew the legislation without any major changes that would be unfavorable to landlords and developers, Durego said. Democrats have an insurmountable majority in the state Assembly, the other state legislative chamber. And Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also a Democrat.

“It was very important to Mr. Litwin to have a Republican state Senate,” Durego testified. “[Litwin] felt that these pieces of legislation were critical to his business.”

Later during his testimony, Durego said that Skelos lost his temper with officials affiliated with the Real Estate Board of New York, a business group that the senator felt wasn’t appreciative enough of Skelos’ legislative efforts. Durego said Skelos told the men that he would “F” them if they didn’t “pony up” and donate to keep the Republicans in control of the state Senate.

U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood denied prosecutors’ request to have Durego explain if Skelos meant he would “F” the men “physically or some other way.”

Direct examination of Durego, which began Wednesday afternoon and continued all day Thursday, resumes Friday.