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Prosecutor: ‘We are deadly serious’ about taking down corrupt officials in New York

Federal authorities have charge the New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son for conspiracy to commit fraud and extortion on Friday. (Video: Reuters)

The leader of New York’s Senate was arrested Monday, just months after a similar corruption arrest of the head of the state Assembly.

Both chamber leaders, legislative veterans from opposite parties, were charged with corruption by Preet Bharara, the powerful U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who has built a national profile through high-profile arrests.

“First, public corruption is a deep-seated problem in New York State,” Bharara said in a statement. “It is a problem in both chambers; it is a problem on both sides of the aisle. And second, we are deadly serious about tackling that problem.”

On Monday, Senate President Dean Skelos (R) and his son, Adam, surrendered to face charges of conspiracy, extortion and solicitation of bribes and gratuities.

Skelos, 67, is accused of using his position to help his son, 32, receive payments from a real estate developer and environmental technology company, both of which had business before the state, according to the complaint, uploaded by the Wall Street Journal.

Among the charges, Skelos is accused of threatening to block the awarding of a multimillion-dollar contract from Nassau County to the environmental technology firm in 2013 unless payments to his son were substantially increased. Skelos has said that he would not resign his leadership post.

In late January, federal agents arrested Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on charges that he similarly used his position to net nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks, allegedly masked as income from a law practice focused on personal injury claims.

Silver had amassed “titanic political power” over decades in public office, which he allegedly abused for “tremendous” personal profit, Bharara said in a statement at the time.

“As today’s charges make clear, the show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain,” he said.

The income allegedly came largely from real estate developers whose profits depended on state legislation and a physician involved in the treatment of asbestos-related diseases whose research center received state grants arranged by Silver. He was charged with five counts carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

“I’m confident that at the end of the process I will be totally vindicated,” Silver said after a November trial date was set last week.