Steven Pigeon, a former attorney and political operative in Western New York, plead guilty to soliciting a $25,000 campaign donation from a foreign donor to the 2014 re-election campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Ex-Western NY Attorney and Political Consultant Pleads Guilty to Soliciting Foreign Campaign Cash
Steven Pigeon, a former attorney and political operative in Western New York, plead guilty on Tuesday to soliciting a $25,000 campaign donation from a foreign donor to the 2014 re-election campaign of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The plea deal satisfies other federal charges that Pigeon bribed former state Supreme Court Justice John Michalek for more than three years in exchange for influence over litigation before the court, according to the office of U.S. Attorney James Kennedy of the Western District of New York.
Pigeon created a scheme for a Canadian citizen to donate to Cuomo’s campaign by funneling money through another person who is a legal resident of the U.S., according to federal prosecutors.
“Transparency in political activity, including the disclosure of the sources of political contributions, is a necessary check on the power of money and a necessary ingredient for a healthy democracy,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Schemes such as this, which introduce obfuscation and secrecy into the political process, threaten our very democracy by endeavoring to use anonymity as a means of eliminating accountability.”
Cuomo’s campaign has not been accused of any wrongdoing by federal prosecutors. A spokeswoman said the money will be donated.
“As the facts demonstrate, our campaign was defrauded by Mr. Pigeon’s illegal actions,” said Abbey Collins, a spokeswoman for the campaign. “The contribution in question will be immediately donated, and we trust the court will handle Mr. Pigeon accordingly.”
Pigeon was represented in the plea by Paul Cambria Jr. of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria.
“It satisfies two state and one federal indictment and we anticipate any sentence imposed will be concurrent,” Cambria said in an emailed statement Tuesday evening.
According to the plea agreement, Pigeon admitted that he asked the CEO of a Canadian online gambling company he represented as a political consultant and lobbyist to make a $25,000 donation to Cuomo’s campaign in 2014. The campaign rejected the donation because the CEO was not a citizen or permanent legal resident of the U.S., according to federal prosecutors.
Pigeon and the CEO then agreed to have a third person, who is a resident of the U.S., make the donation on his behalf. The parties agreed that Pigeon’s client would either pay for, or reimburse, the third person for the donation.
Pigeon and the CEO were then granted entry to a fundraising event for Cuomo in 2014, according to federal prosecutors.
Pigeon was scheduled to change his plea in court on Tuesday as part of a different scheme where he arranged bribes for Michalek in exchange for favorable judicial decisions and to control who was appointed to a paid court receivership. Pigeon plead guilty to state charges related to the scheme last month.
The federal charges covered bribes offered to Michalek by Pigeon between February 2012 and April 2013. Pigeon agreed to support Michalek’s application to be appointed to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, according to his federal indictment. Those appointments are made by the governor and approved by the state Senate. The same agreement was alleged by state prosecutors.
Pigeon also promised to get a member of Michalek’s family a job working on President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and offered to help the same individual get a job with the U.S. Department of State, according to the federal indictment.
Pigeon pleaded guilty in the state’s case to also giving Michalek a pair of tickets to Buffalo Sabres hockey games and allowing a member of Michalek’s family to attend a political fundraiser for free. The ticket price for the event was $1,000.
Michalek, meanwhile, delivered information on multiple lawsuits in which Pigeon had an interest.
On one occasion, Pigeon convinced Michalek to select a specific attorney to serve as a receiver when that individual was not on the court’s list of qualified receivers. Michalek filed a document with the Office of Court Administration on which he falsely claimed that he needed the attorney’s expertise in handling that receivership, state prosecutors said.
Pigeon is scheduled to be sentenced on the state charges in December and the federal charges in January.