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Schneiderman announces criminal charges against SUNY Polytechnic president and a major Capital Region real estate developer in alleged bid-rigging scheme

Submitted and Press Release

Thu, Sep 22nd 2016 07:40 pm

Felony complaint available HERE 

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the filing of a felony complaint charging two individuals for a scheme to rig the bidding process for three multimillion-dollar contracts.

Alain Kaloyeros, 60, of Slingerlands, the president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, has been charged with three felony counts of combination in restraint of trade and competition. Joseph Nicolla, 59, of Schenectady, the president of Columbia Development, has been charged with one felony count of combination in restraint of trade and competition.

The felony complaint alleges Kaloyeros steered, or agreed to steer, the awarding of contracts to handpicked companies, including Nicolla's Columbia Development.

"The charges filed today outline a blatant and brazen abuse of taxpayer dollars and the public trust," Schneiderman said Thursday. "This self-serving scheme alleged in the complaint was particularly egregious because it was aimed at enriching powerful people at the expense of the state's public university system. We will continue to hold public officials accountable and ensure that all officials are held to the same high standard of integrity that New Yorkers deserve."

Kaloyeros is scheduled to be arraigned in Albany City Court on Friday. Nicolla is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.

If convicted on all charges, Kaloyeros faces a maximum sentence of four to 12 years in prison. If convicted on all charges, Nicolla faces a maximum sentence of 1.3 to four years in prison.

According to the felony complaint, Kaloyeros, a government official, engaged in an ongoing scheme to direct the contracts for government-financed projects to favored companies, including Nicolla's company, Columbia Development. Rather than use a fair and competitive process to award contracts, Kaloyeros allegedly improperly used the request for proposal process to award certain contracts for the construction of facilities for SUNY Poly. 

This collusion is evidenced in three separate alleged schemes:

•The first scheme involved a contract for the development of a SUNY Poly student housing complex on Loughlin Street in Albany that was awarded to Nicolla's company, Columbia Development. According to the felony complaint, Kaloyeros colluded with Columbia to give the company an unfair competitive advantage in the bidding process for the project. As part of the alleged scheme, Kaloyeros, who exercised effectively unilateral control over the bidding process, forwarded a solicitation from a rival construction company to Nicolla six months before the issuance of a state RFP. Then, a month before the RFP was issued, he allegedly sent Nicolla a note stating "time to prepare an RFP for student housing," with the specifications included. According to the felony complaint, the housing project was to ultimately be financed with revenue from "room fees" paid by SUNY Poly students.

•The second scheme related to the construction of the so-called NanoFab West research building. According to the felony complaint, Kaloyeros orchestrated the hiring and firing of multiple firms participating in the project, and ultimately awarded the most lucrative contract to a contractor who agreed to provide a $50,000,000 loan to a nonprofit organization connected to SUNY Poly and effectively controlled by Kaloyeros. As part of the proposal, the contractor offered to provide a $3,000,000 research grant to SUNY Poly. According to the felony complaint, Kaloyeros' compensation was determined in part by the amount of research grants awarded to SUNY Poly.

•The third alleged scheme involved a collusive agreement with an architectural firm, where, in exchange for the firm's agreement to lease space in a SUNY Poly building, Kaloyeros agreed to give the firm future work on SUNY Poly projects. According to the felony complaint, the architectural firm would increase its future rent payments to SUNY Poly in proportion to the amount of future state dollars steered to the company by SUNY Poly. According to the felony complaint, Kaloyeros boasted about his ability to unilaterally control the RFP process and to "write an RFP in such a way that only one company could win it."

The charges against the defendants are merely allegations. All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Christopher Baynes of the Public Integrity Bureau under the supervision of Public Integrity Bureau Chief Daniel Cort and Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.

The investigation was conducted by Investigator Mark Spencer and Legal Analyst Sara Pogorzelski. The Investigations Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Dominick Zarrella and Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam. Forensic auditing analysis was provided by Associate Forensic Auditor Jason W. Blair from the Forensic Audit Section, led by Chief Auditor Edward J. Keegan, Jr.

Schneiderman also thanked the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been conducting a separate investigation into related conduct, and has been coordinating its investigative efforts with the office of the attorney general.

In response, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement saying:

"I learned this morning of the charges filed by the U.S. Attorney's office that include a former member of my administration (Joseph Percoco). If the allegations are true, I am saddened and profoundly disappointed. I hold my administration to the highest level of integrity. I have zero tolerance for abuse of the public trust from anyone. If anything, a friend should be held to an even higher standard. Like my father before me, I believe public integrity is paramount. This sort of breach, if true, should be and will be punished.

"SUNY has rightly relieved Alain Kaloyeros from his duties and has suspended him without pay, effective immediately.

"This matter is now in the hands of the court, which is exactly where it belongs. My administration will continue to be fully cooperative in the matter as we have been since it began." 

Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli was also charged.

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