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‘Buffalo Billion’ bid-rigging convictions overturned by SCOTUS

The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the 2018 “Buffalo Billion” bid-rigging convictions of Alain Kaloyeros, founder of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and three other businessmen. The court also reversed the fraud-related conviction of Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The court’s decision, penned by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, argued that the wire fraud charges under which the defendants were convicted “criminalizes traditionally civil matters and federalizes traditionally state matters” and is “invalid under the federal fraud statute.”

The 2018 convictions were tied to a scheme involving the rigging of bids on $855 million in state contracts, part of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative. Kaloyeros and the other businessmen were found guilty of defrauding the Fort Schuyler Management Corp., a nonprofit development arm of SUNY Poly, of “potentially valuable economic information” and the “right to control” its own assets. The trial provided insight into the inner workings of state government, revealing how Kaloyeros had given an early view of bid proposals to co-defendant Louis Ciminelli.

Percoco’s conviction of “honest services” wire fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and solicitation of bribes and gratuities was also overruled. The Supreme Court, in a ruling written by Associate Justice Samuel Alito, determined that it was improper to convict Percoco, arguing that individuals without formal government positions can wield strong influence over government decisions. Both rulings follow the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan affirming the convictions.