NEW YORK — The man federal prosecutors called their “key witness” in the Buffalo Billion public corruption case will not be joining his former boss in a prison cell.
Former LPCiminelli executive and Pendelton resident Kevin Schuler was sentenced to two years of supervised release and 200 hours of community service by U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni. The sentence was handed down Friday afternoon in federal court in New York City.
In sentencing Schuler’s one-time boss – former LPCiminelli President and CEO Louis Ciminelli – to 28 months behind bars and a half million dollar fine, Caproni said few crimes are worse than public corruption. The judge said she wanted Ciminelli’s time in prison to send a message.
“I hope this sentence will be heard around the state,” the judge said.
For the man prosecutors said provided key testimony about a bid-rigging scheme tied to the Buffalo Billion economic redevelopment program, the judge also sent a message.
Caproni sentenced Schuler to time served – a brief period of incarceration when he was first arrested by FBI agents – two years of supervised release, 200 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine.
The judge told Schuler that at least one-third of his community service time should be spent “talking to college students, law students, or business groups about business ethics and the risks of failing to adhere to principle of integrity and honesty in government.”
The one-time chairman of the Niagara USA chamber of commerce, Schuler pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges.
Schuler was one of three Ciminelli executives who faced multiple counts of wire fraud and bribery in a case involving the payment of $100,000 to a lobbyist who then helped rig the bidding process for the $750 million Solar City complex construction project, a part of the state’s Buffalo Billion economic stimulus initiative.
After pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, Schuler had faced up to 40 years in prison. However, as a result of his cooperation with prosecutors and his testimony against Ciminelli and other Buffalo Billion defendants, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York recommended that Caproni not hand down a lengthy prison term.
The indictment of Schuler and others followed a year-long investigation by agents in the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office, along with investigators from former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in Manhattan.
The Ciminelli execs were accused of paying bribes to Todd Howe, who had been hired by Alain Kaloyeros, the president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, to help administer the Buffalo Billion initiative and related programs. Oversight of the Buffalo Billion had been entrusted to Kaloyeros and others, like Howe, at SUNY Poly.
The federal indictment charged that Howe and Kaloyeros secretly rigged the bids on lucrative state-funded contracts to ensure that LPCiminelli and a Syracuse-based developer would win them.
The indictment also charged Joseph Percoco, the former executive deputy secretary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Kaloyeros, energy company executive Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr. and Syracuse developers Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi with multiple counts of extortion, honest services fraud, solicitation of bribes, payment of bribes, wire fraud and lying to the FBI in connection with actions taken on state projects other than the Buffalo Billion.