MANHATTAN (CN) – After seeing an invoice with payments to the wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former top deputy, an energy executive exploded at his colleague in a fit of profanity-laced panic.
“You’re scaring the shit out of me, Braith,” Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) employee Sean Finnerty recalled saying during testimony at a corruption trial on Thursday.
Then-head of CPV’s natural gas development group, Finnerty has been testifying against one of the other participants in that conversation: Peter Galbraith (“Braith”) Kelly, who was a vice president at the company.
The payments that alarmed Finnerty went to the wife of Kelly’s co-defendant Joseph Percoco, who enjoyed the reputation as the governor’s right-hand man before bribery charges cast a cloud over his political career.
Prosecutors accuse Percoco of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes funneled through “low-show” jobs to his wife.
More than $287,000 of that amount came from the job Lisa Percoco held at CPV’s educational outreach to a community deeply skeptical about the environmental ramifications of allowing a fracked gas power plant in New York’s picturesque Hudson Valley.
After Finnerty inquired about payments of $7,500 per month to Lisa Percoco, he said, Kelly insisted that the money was on the up and up during the July 2014 phone call.
“Braith’s response was, ‘There is nothing illegal about it. We have an ethics opinion on it. We have had the lawyers look at it,’” Finnerty recounted.
Skeptical, Finnerty said he demanded to see the proof.
“I asked if I could see the ethics opinion and the legal opinion,” Finnerty said. “I was told those would not be shared with me.”
He added: “At that time – I apologize for the language, your honor – but at that time I said, ‘What the fuck, Braith?’ That is typically not the way we did work at CPV. We were very transparent. I said I wasn’t going to approve the invoice. I wasn’t comfortable with it.”
The third participant in that phone call, CPV’s chief executive officer Doug Egan, has not been charged with wrongdoing.
“Doug Egan instructed Braith to get me the materials that would get me comfortable with approving the invoice,” Finnerty said. “At that point, the call was ended.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Boone asked Finnerty what had terrified him.
“When the first answer out of somebody’s mouth to a pretty basic question is there is nothing illegal about it, it raises a red flag in my mind,” Finnerty replied.
Finnerty’s testimony will continue Monday. He will be followed by the government’s star cooperating witness Todd Howe, a lobbyist who pleaded guilty to honest services fraud, wire fraud, extortion, conspiracy, tax evasion and other charges.