BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – A Buffalo developer has been sentenced to 28 months in prison and ordered to pay a $500,000 fine in a bid-rigging scheme connected to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” economic redevelopment program.
Louis Ciminelli was sentenced Monday in federal court for a pay-to-play conspiracy in which his firm won a development job worth a half billion dollars.
Jerry Zremski, Washington bureau chief for the Buffalo News, says the scene in the courtroom bordered on drama, as Ciminelli and Judge Valerie Caproni squared off, just before she sentenced the contractor. Zremski says it’s a complicated sentence.
“It involves 28 months prison sentence, which is suspended until his appeal of the conviction is resolved, and that’s likely to take upwards of a year,” he said. “Beyond that, the sentence includes a fine of $500,000 that he will have to pay within the next 30 days. So there is kind of an immediate effect to this and there is an unresolved part of this.”
It will also take a while for the judge to determine how much of Ciminelli’s $25 million in gross proceeds of the construction will have to be paid back.
Ciminelli and three others were convicted over the summer. Prosecutors say the scheme involved state-funded contracts worth more than $850 million.
“The lawyers on Mr. Ciminelli’s side have thought for a while that the evidence was not particularly strong in this case,” Zremski said. “The jury, obviously, disagreed and the judge, obviously very much, disagrees as well. Criminal trial appeals rarely succeed.”
Prosecutors say Ciminelli and others in his company contributed nearly $100,000 to Cuomo’s campaign. The Democratic governor was not accused of wrongdoing.
A federal jury convicted two other developers and former president of the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute Alain Kaloyeros. Kaloyeros is scheduled for sentencing next week.
“They see Mr. Kaloyeros as the real mastermind behind the Buffalo Billion part of this scheme,” Zremski said. “He was the head of SUNY Polytechnic and he, according to the evidence, was the one who really put the scheme together and Mr. Ciminelli really just took part and benefited from it.”