The US Supreme Court Thursday announced that it would hear two related cases involving fraud during the October 2022 term.
In Percoco v. United States, petitioner Joseph Percoco, who was convicted of bribery in 2018, is appealing his conviction on the grounds that he was not employed by the state at the time that he had accepted the bribes. Percoco was then the campaign manager for former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He was convicted of having accepted bribes from an energy company executive and two real estate developers.
The legal question, according to Percoco’s lawyers is, “Does a private citizen who holds no elected office or government employment, but has informal political or other influence over governmental decision making, owe a fiduciary duty to the general public such that he can be convicted of honest-services fraud?”
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that “a person who is not technically employed by the government may nevertheless owe a fiduciary duty to the public if he dominates and controls governmental business, and is actually relied on by people in the government because of some special relationship.” Percoco’s lawyers disagree and allege that if allowed, the Second Circuit ruling could complicate otherwise legal activities such as traditional lobbying.
The court will also hear Ciminelli v. United States, which is an appeal from Louis Ciminelli who was convicted of wire fraud as part of the same bribery conspiracy. Ciminelli’s case is focused on property law and whether the withholding of information that would influence a person’s economic decision amounts to property fraud. Ciminelli’s lawyers claim that the “right to control theory” of fraud, under which Ciminelli was convicted, is inconsistent with traditional property law.