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COR's lawsuit against Todd Howe placed on hold

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  • COR's lawsuit against Todd Howe placed on hold


    ALBANY — A lawsuit brought by a Syracuse-area development company against disgraced consultant Todd Howe will have to wait until the conclusion of the second federal corruption trial involving the two parties that's slated to begin in June.

    COR Development sued Howe in August 2016 over what it has described as an $85,000 "loan" made to the longtime associate of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015 — a sum that Howe's attorneys have insisted was actually "part of an illegal conspiracy to deprive the public of its intangible right to honest services of an employee of the State of New York by soliciting and giving bribes and gratuities" — an apparent reference to former top Cuomo aide and former Howe friend Joe Percoco, who was convicted last month of taking more than $300,000 in bribes from COR and another company, Competitive Power Ventures.

    COR's suit was filed a month before Howe pleaded guilty to multiple felonies as part of a protection agreement with federal prosecutors, and top COR executives Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi were arrested on charges of bribing Percoco to secure official favors.

    Aiello was convicted last month on one count, while Gerardi was acquitted. Both men face charges in the second trial related to an alleged bid-rigging scheme involving SUNY Polytechnic Institute projects. The defendants will also include SUNY Poly's founding president Alain Kaloyeros and three executives from Buffalo's LPCiminelli development firm.

    On Friday, a federal magistrate judge in Onondaga County placed the lawsuit on hold pending the resolution of the second trial, which is slated to begin in June in Manhattan. The stay was issued in response to a request by Howe's attorney, though COR did not object.

    The sweeping federal complaint unveiled in September 2016 alleged that between August 2014 and June 2015, COR paid Howe bonuses worth an estimated $385,000. Though Howe was ostensibly employed by the Capital Region-based law firm Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, those payments were allegedly made to Howe's Potomac Strategies LLC ($135,000) and to Howe directly ($250,000).

    According to records and his testimony at the first trial, Howe was paid to help COR secure contracts for projects developed by SUNY Polytechnic Institute, where the lobbyist was working as a paid consultant. (In several instances, Howe had clients on both sides of the table when he took part in deals involving public funds.)

    To support the claims made in its suit, COR in October 2016 — the month after Howe had pleaded guilty — provided the court with copies of a series of documents related to the alleged loan:
    • A promissory note for the $85,000 signed by Howe and dated Aug. 14, 2015, setting a deadline for repayment by the end of that year.
    • An amended note, signed by Howe and Steven Aiello on Jan. 26 of this year, pushing the repayment deadline back to June 30.
    • An $85,000 check from Howe on an HSBC account made out to COR and dated Dec. 28, 2015, marked as having been returned for insufficient funds on June 28, 2016.
    • A July 18, 2016, email sent by Howe to a COR official in which the lobbyist explains that a Federal Express package from COR had been left on the porch of his house in Washington, D.C., by a young house-sitter. " ... (N)eedless to say it got saturated a few times so what ever was in the envelope (along with the envelope) basically disintegrated [sic] to the point the docs are unreadable. We found it last night when we got home. If possible could you email me a copy so I can address."
    • A FedEx tracking report showing the document was delivered on July 11 and signed for by "D. Howe."
    • A default letter dated July 8 and signed by COR controller Angela Hughes that informs Howe that he has been in default on the $85,000 loan as of the beginning of July. The letter says in a topline it was sent "via Federal Express," and gives him 30 days to make full payment or face legal action.
    • An Aug. 9 email from Howe to Hughes in which he asks for a 45-day extension on the note, which would have been due the next day. "I am in the process of securing the funding and need a few more weeks to complete. ... This date will give me plenty of time to wrap this ... and get payment back to COR," Howe writes.

    Forty-three days later, Howe pleaded guilty to the federal charges.

    During his tumultuous testimony at the first trial, Howe admitted to repeatedly bilking individuals and companies ranging from his family dog-walker to his employers at Whiteman Hanna & Osterman. Under cross-examination, he admitted to attempting to bilk his credit card company out of the cost of a night's stay at the Waldorf Astoria hotel — an action Howe made weeks after signing a cooperation agreement that required him to stop committing crimes.

    Howe was taken into federal custody hours later, where he remains.



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