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NY 'Buffalo Billion' Scandal Heats Up

The state-led program is accused of favoring certain developers for lucrative contracts.

NEW YORK (AP) — A key cooperator for the prosecution could soon testify in a criminal case that grew from a New York State economic redevelopment plan known as the Buffalo Billion.

Kevin Schuler, a former executive at the construction firm LPCiminelli, pleaded guilty last month to charges that he committed fraud during the bidding process that led to the selection of his company to redevelop an old steel plant site on the Buffalo River.

Lawyers on Tuesday identified Schuler as a likely witness in the trial against his former boss, Louis Ciminelli, and Alain Kaloyeros, a former state university president accused of illegally steering state contracts to preferred developers on economic stimulus projects in Buffalo and Syracuse.

Jurors in Manhattan began hearing evidence in the case against Ciminelli, Kaloyeros and two other defendants on Monday.

The trial is the second one in which federal prosecutors have taken aim at people close to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who made revitalization of former industrial cities a major initiative of his administration.

The first trial ended with the conviction of Joseph Percoco, one of the governor's close aides. That prosecution was built with the help of another former Cuomo aide, lobbyist Todd Howe, who testified about his efforts to win contracts for companies paying him as a consultant. But Howe ran into new legal troubles mid-trial that caused prosecutors to sour on him as a witness and decide not to call him to the stand in this sequel prosecution.

Prosecutors instead are turning to Schuler to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the contracting process.

Defense lawyers say Schuler's testimony may help prove their clients are innocent.

Kaloyeros is a former president of the State University of New York's Polytechnic Institute who worked closely with Cuomo on upstate redevelopment plans.

On Monday, a prosecutor told jurors that Kaloyeros made sure the "fix was in" so favored developers, including LPCiminelli and the Syracuse firm, COR Development, got lucrative contracts. A defense lawyer said Kaloyeros worked within the law and was only trying to create high tech jobs and help the state.

COR received a $100 million deal to build a factory and film studio in Syracuse.

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