Witkoff claims he was fooled by slick Shelly

Developer says he didn’t know former Assembly speaker was getting cut of legal fees

Sheldon Silver Steve Witkoff
From left: Steve Witkoff and Sheldon Silver

Count none other than Steve Witkoff among those allegedly fooled by former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Testifying at Silver’s corruption trial Tuesday, Witkoff said he was kept in the dark about the fact that the politico was allegedly collecting a cut of legal fees from his development firm.

Silver had asked him to hire a friend of his to handle tax litigation work, the developer testified. Witkoff told the jury that he had no idea Silver was actually splitting legal fees with that unnamed friend, Crain’s reported.

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Prosecutors claim the arrangement was one of the alleged bribery schemes that helped Silver amass $5 million in illicit income in two decades as assembly speaker.

The 71-year-old Silver has pleaded not guilty to charges, with his lawyers claiming overzealous prosecutors are attempting to criminalize how politics is practiced in Albany.

A lobbyist from real estate firm Glenwood Management testified Monday that Silver had personally received $750,000 related to real estate tax work performed by firm Goldberg & Iryami, which allegedly gave him kickback money. The lobbyist, Richard Runes, testified that Silver’s name was removed from a public document that would have disclosed the fee-sharing arrangement by firm CEO Leonard Litwin. Litwin, who is 101 years old and not expected to testify, feared retribution from Silver, Runes claimed.

This week also saw the start of the corruption trail of former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam. [Crain’s]Rey Mashayekhi