The FBI had an ex-environmental company official wear a wire to secretly record the son of New York State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) discussing an alleged pay-to-play scheme, the official said.
Bjornulf White, the former vice president of AbTech Industries, used the hidden device to record the senator’s son, Adam Skelos, who was hired by AbTech at the senator’s urging, discuss how Adam planned to lobby state Sen. Tom Croci (R-Bohemia) at Croci’s re-election campaign fundraiser rather than at Croci’s office so he wouldn’t appear on the senator’s official schedule, White said Tuesday during his second full day of direct testimony in the father and son’s corruption trial at Manhattan federal court.
“After you meet with Tom Croci, I’m going to his fundraiser,” Adam told White in the conversation recorded on Feb. 13 at the W Hotel in Manhattan when he advised White on how to lobby Croci for legislation that would help AbTech. “That’s all I’m going to talk to him about.”
Arizona-based AbTech is one of three companies that the former state Senate Majority Leader allegedly coerced $300,000 in bribes from in the form of no-show jobs for his son in exchange for illegally manipulating legislation. Both men deny the accusations. Adam, through a middleman, allegedly coerced AbTech into paying him $10,000 a month after threatening to sink the company’s bid for a $12-million Nassau County contract.
White testified that the FBI told him to ask Adam about Chief Deputy Nassau County Executive Rob Walker, the $400,000 project that White said Walker promised AbTech, and what came of media reports that the senator was under federal investigation. White also asked Adam if he had a “safe number” so White could call him and avoid federal authorities recording their conversations on wiretaps. Adam gave White the number for Adam’s so-called burner phone—pre-paid disposable cell phones that aren’t billed in the user’s name. Then the FBI tapped Adam’s burner phone.
The burner phone was one of many attempts Adam used to push for legislation on AbTech’s behalf despite his not being a registered lobbyist and despite breaking news of the federal investigation. White said Adam told him to avoid using email, and instead mail him paper copies of their request for Croci to sponsor legislation that would authorize AbTech to design and build its storm water drain filters, because state law requires different companies do those roles on public projects separately. Adam told White that he would hand deliver those paper copies to Adam’s father and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who was urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass similar legislation, White testified.
“It’s better that I distance myself from being in, like, official meetings,” Adam told White in a Feb. 23 wiretapped call while discussing their lobbying strategy and how to avoid detection by authorities. “Normally, I’m never that cautious…but with everything going on, I’m trying to be.”
Meanwhile, Adam set up another lobbying meeting for White with state Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa). Then he called the senator’s office to confirm that Venditto would be attending a GOP fundraiser after his meeting with White, according to additional wiretaps played in court. Adam thought Venditto would be more receptive than Croci, but his father’s senate staff canceled White’s meeting with Venditto before it could happen. When Adam found out, he called his father to complain.
“I don’t work with that person anymore,” Adam told his father in a Feb. 24 wiretapped call. “He’s just a friend.”
The senator was apparently more shaken by the news of his federal investigation than his son.
“Right now we are in dangerous times, Adam,” the senator told his son.