The feds star witness against former Gov. Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco lived a life of luxury built on lies and a long line of unpaid debts, Percoco’s lawyer charged in court.
Todd Howe, a one-time Cuomo confidant-turned-lobbyist, has been testifying since Monday in the Manhattan Federal Court corruption case against Percoco, who had long been Cuomos crony and counselor.
Cross-examination of Howe kicked off Wednesday with Percoco’s lawyer, Barry Bohrer, mercilessly questioning him on his admitted dishonesty.
“Are you an honest man?” Bohrer asked, launching into his cross.
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I am today, said Howe, who copped to eight felonies in 2016, including corruption and fraud counts. Howe pleaded to bank fraud in 2010.
Lets talk about your definition of an honest man, Bohrer later pressed. Does an honest man lie?
No, Howe calmly replied.
But you did that, didnt you? Howe said yes.
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During Bohrer’s testimony, Howe admitted to decades of unpaid debts and judgments including mortgages on tony houses and for home renovations.
Howes bilked creditors also included a health club, tree service and a tutor for his son.
You were driving an Audi Quattro while you were stiffing all of these folks? Bohrer asked Howe of a period around the mid-2000s.
It was a used Audi, yes, Howe said.
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Bohrer repeatedly insinuated that Howe’s self-described decision to come clean despite years of admitted dishonesty was in hopes of getting leniency.
At one point, Howe said he found it “insulting” when Bohrer contended that the only reason I told the truth was a get out of jail free card.
Additional portions of Howe’s testimony undermined claims by one of Cuomo’s aides that the governor wasn’t very familiar with him.
In 2016, then-Cuomo chief of staff Melissa DeRosa claimed she had never heard him talk to Todd Howe or about Todd Howe” during her prior three years working with him, according to the Wall Street Journal. If he is in the inner circle, I dont know which inner circle it is, said DeRosa, who is now Secretary to the Governor.
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Cuomo reportedly had also said “I wouldnt call us close friends…He worked for the state for a number of years.”
Howe testified Percoco encouraged him to work with Cuomo’s 2010 campaign, saying in an email it’s time to activate the brotherhood.
I had a relationship with all these guys, Howe said. I had a relationship with the governor.
Howe testified he communicated with numerous top members of the Cuomo administration while working as a lobbyist, including via their personal emails. They included Alexander Cochran, special counsel and head of the state’s D.C. office, and Jim Malatras, who was Cuomo’s director of state ops.
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Prosecutors say Percoco, 48, accepted more than $300,000 in bribes from several businessmen who sought contracts with the state.
Those businessmen include energy exec Peter Galbraith Kelly, as well as Syracuse developers Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi.
Howe, 57, has testified he acted as a middleman in the alleged bribery schemes.
Howe recalled one instance where Percoco protected Aiello’s son from a colleague whod been bullying him in the governor’s office.
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Howe said Aiello wanted Percoco to run interference between his son, Steven Aiello Jr., and the other Cuomo staffer, Andrew Ball.
Steven Aiello Sr. said Andrew Ball was constantly breaking Steven Aiello Jr.’s chops all the time, Howe said, explaining the developer wanted Percoco to get Ball to lay off Junior.
Ball was just making Junior’s life miserable, Howe said in reference to their conversation.
When asked what happened, Howe said, My recollection is that Percoco indicated he was going to move Ball a floor down below, so the two of them weren’t on the same floor.
Howe also said he told the elder Aiello to write Percoco a thank-you note after getting his kid a raise.
He would appreciate it, as no one ever says thanks, Howe recalled.