Former Petrocelli Electric chairman and principal owner Santo Petrocelli Sr. is accused of making secret payments for a decade to a representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
The IBEW official was not named in the indictment, but other court papers identify him as Brian McLaughlin, an influential labor leader and state assemblyman who pleaded guilty last year to taking kickbacks.
Petrocelli smiled, but wouldn't speak to reporters after appearing before a judge at the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. His attorney also wouldn't respond to questions.
Prosecutors accuse Petrocelli, 74, of Clark, N.J., of paying thousands of dollars in bribes to McLaughlin over a series of years in connection with projects that included his company's lucrative contract to maintain public streetlights. He is also charged with arranging for McLaughlin to get free use of a company car for two months in 2004.
For years, Petrocelli Electric was New York City's biggest street light contractor, but it was shut out of city work two years ago after city and federal officials began investigating corruption and bid-rigging allegations. The company's offices in Queens were raided by the FBI in 2006.
A woman who answered the phone at Petrocelli Electric said "Mr. Petrocelli has not worked for the company for some time," and hung up.
Rose Gill Hearn, the commissioner of the city's Department of Investigation, said "the charges expose the relationship between the contractor and union official for what it was a long-running partnership of corruption."
McLaughlin still hasn't been sentenced.