By ALEXANDRA SEMENOVA
In earlier days, before they went their separate ways into politics and business, Senator Dean Skelos and Anthony Bonomo, chief executive owner of Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers, spent much of their time together eating egg salad sandwiches and moseying through their Long Island hometown getting folks to vote, according to Skelos’s lawyer.
The two have known each other since 1980 and maintained a “cordial relationship.”
But when Bonomo received a call from Senator Skelos in 2013, in a tone that he described as “heightened and upset,” that Skelos’s son, Adam — who was employed at Bonomo’s insurance marketing company at the time — was being “picked on” by his supervisor, Christopher Curcio, Bonomo feared that relationship was at risk.
“I did not want to have a problem in Albany,” Bonomo said in Manhattan Federal Court Thursday. “I knew the senator was upset.”
Senator Skelos and his son are facing political corruption charges, one of which includes the older Skelos using his influence to get his son a no-show job.
In 2013, Bonomo hired Adam Skelos full time to sell insurance plans against medical malpractice to doctors for his company as a favor for the senator, who wanted his son to have a steady job and full health benefits. The 33-year-old Skelos was expected to work full-time at a salary of $1,500 dollars a week, according to Bonomo.
However, shortly after Skelos was hired, the senator called Bonomo complaining that someone in the company was giving his son a hard time and told him to “just take care of it,” Bonomo testified.
When Bonomo made internal inquiries about the senator’s complaint, other employees at the firm said that the younger Skelos showed up only two days per week and that he was not ‘picked on’ but confronted by Curcio about his failure to come to work.
“I’m Adam Skelos,” he would say to Curcio. “You know who I am?”
Bonomo did nothing about the problem. The defensive nature of the senator’s call about his son made him worried that reprimanding Adam Skelos for failing to comply with his job requirements might be detrimental to his legislative influence, he said.
“I just didn’t want this to be a wedge if I wanted to discuss legislature,” Bonomo testified. “I just felt it was best to do nothing. I knew how important Adam was to the senator.”
Six months into his employment, Adam Skelos was due for a standard performance review. An email from Debbie Antonucci, another worker at the insurance company, to Bonomo in July 2013 showed her asking what she should do about Skelos’s review. “Do nothing,” Bonomo replied.
Bonomo turned his back on Adam’s less than satisfactory work ethic and continued to pay him a full-time salary because he worried that upsetting Senator Skelos, the Senate majority leader, may have an unfavorable impact on legislation affecting the company. “It was the easiest thing to do,” he said. “I did not want to have a problem with the senator.”
Bonomo, who testified under a nonprosecution agreement, told jurors that he did not think he could terminate Skelos. Instead, he offered him a telemarketing job that did not require him to come into the office.
The position paid $36,000 per year and required Skelos to make 90-100 sales calls per week from his home, Bonomo said. Although Adam agreed with the terms, Bonomo knew he did not perform the job but still continued to send him checks. Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers signed up no doctors on Adam’s behalf, but the senator’s son received payments from the company for two years.
“I needed to make sure Adam’s problems were not inhibiting me in Albany,” Bonomo said in front of Judge Kimba M. Wood.
The trial of Senator Skelos and his son was in its third week.