ROCHESTER — Assemblyman Joe Errigo (R-Conesus) made his first appearance in US District Court in Rochester on Wednesday, to face charges of accepting bribes and wire fraud.
Errigo, 79, who represents the 133rd Assembly District, was arraigned in front of Judge Marian Payson, and released without bail conditions.
Following the proceedings, US Attorney James P. Kennedy of the Buffalo-based Western District outlined the charges in a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
“The legislative process should not be up for sale to the highest bidder. By misusing an elected office to line his own pockets, Assemblyman Errigo has, as alleged in the criminal complaint, undermined the integrity of our legislative process and the public’s trust,” Kennedy said as he reviewed the criminal complaint.
The charges stem from Errigo allegedly accepting cash payments from a lobbyist to introduce a bill supporting an undisclosed development project, according to the US Attorney.
A search of the Assembly’s bill database revealed that bill (A.10227) relates to the approval or disapproval of any zoning incentives or bonuses for any property which abuts a highway under the jurisdiction of the department of transportation, bringing what would otherwise be a local decision, under control of the State Department of Transportation's purview.
It is alleged that Errigo accepted several cash payments from an unnamed, yet to be charged lobbyist, including $1,500 cash on two occasions, $3,000 total to “Grease the skids with Errigo,” Kennedy stated.
The payment was allegedly made on Feb. 9 at Errigo’s Pittsford office. Thereafter, the lobbyist sent Errigo an email containing specific language to be used in the bill, which was later obtained by the FBI.
On March 16, the lobbyist procured another $2,000 from the client, designated for Errigo to introduce the bill, which investigators say he accepted. The bill was assigned a number in the Assembly on March 27, and on April 13, prosecutors allege we accepted another $2,000 payment.
“It’s our position that that was an official act,” Kennedy said of Errigo obtaining a bill number.
The bill had been referred to the Assembly transportation committee on March 26, and was held for consideration on June 5.
Neither the prosecutor nor the Agent in Charge disclosed how the information was obtained by the FBI. However, the FBI had been monitoring Errigo after a tip came into their office earlier this year. Once a willingness to accept the alleged bribes was made known, they sprung into action, and he was confronted with the allegations, according to Kennedy.
In May, Errigo allegedly admitted to FBI investigators that he took the bribes, the prosecutor said.
The total cash payments directed to both the lobbyist and Errigo totaled $10,500. The criminal complaint alleges that $5,500 was accepted by the assemblyman.
Gary Loffert, FBI Buffalo division Special Agent in Charge said, “Elected officials serve in a position of trust. We trust our elected officials will make decisions free of undue influence. This is why corruption is the number one priority of the criminal program for the FBI. Bribery and Power are not good for our constituents,” he said.
No one else has been arrested in the matter, however, “the investigation continues,” Kennedy said, turning away direct questions about the lobbyist and their client in the case.
The status of Assmeblyman Errigo’s job is to be determined by the Assembly. Errigo has not disclosed whether or not he will continue his campaign while the investigation continues. He has held the seat since a 2016 election to replace the late Bill Nojay (R-Pittsford), and had served from 2001-2010 in another district.
However, Wednesday's allegations had a chilling effect on Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) who said, “The allegations against Assemblyman Joseph Errigo announced today are disturbing for everyone in state government and for the people of the 133rd Assembly District. We have just learned about the charges, and more facts will be presented as the legal process runs its course. If a crime has been committed, the guilty parties should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any time these kinds of accusations are brought against a public official, it severely damages the public trust.”
Errigo is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Nov. 20, at 9:20 a.m.
Byrnes released the following statement —
“I was grieved to hear of the serious allegations that have been lodged against Assemblyman Joe Errigo. And, if true, I am angered that another one of our elected officials would view his public service as a means of lining his pockets with tainted profit. The profiteering of some public officials is causing jaded cynicism among the electorate. It must end.
“Bribery and public corruption are exactly why I support term limits for all elected officials. Our Founding Fathers intended for a citizen legislature where real people serve the public for a limited amount of time before returning to their farms or other business interests. I pledge to serve no more than three, two-year terms. We don’t need politicians collecting envelopes full of cash, but people that seek the state’s best interests.
“The criminal complaint indicates that Mr. Errigo admitted to accepting a bribe and that he knew it was wrong. Based upon this admission, Mr. Errigo should immediately resign his seat.”