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Bribery charges against developers in Buffalo Billion case dropped

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Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have dropped a major bribery charge against two former top executives of developer LP Ciminelli in a corruption case tied to Buffalo Billion funding.

One remaining charge of wire fraud remains in the case, with the trial slated to start June 11.

The case revolves around allegations of a pay-to-play scheme involving construction of the Tesla solar plant in South Buffalo, with construction costs around $750 million.

The bribery charge against developer Louis Ciminelli and one of his top lieutenants, Michael Laipple, was dropped, although the wire fraud charge remains. Recently, a third Ciminelli executive, Kevin Schuler, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

"It's unusual that right before a trial, a major portion of the case, half the case gets dismissed and gets dismissed, most importantly, because the prosecutors conclude that they cannot proves the charge," said Paul Shechtman, the lawyer for Louis Ciminelli.

Ciminelli and Laipple will go to trial with some Syracuse developers and Alain Kaloyeros, former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, who was in charge of the Tesla project.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.