Where some might see ghosts at 139 Bassett, the Turanos saw their dream house. Michael and Gerard were now earning good incomes as gynecologists, and they took out a hefty mortgage to cover the nearly $1 million purchase price, a steal considering the waterfront home has roughly 7,000 square feet. The Turano brothers also took out a loan to cover the expected $500,000-plus in renovations.
Kruger oversaw the renovation of the house, which was fully tricked out. The New York Times found plans for a snow-melting system for the driveway and a bathroom steam system. An arcade room reportedly had a gumball machine, while another parlor featured an old-fashioned lunch counter with a soda fountain.
Outside, it’s just as ostentatious. Along the driveway are four flagpoles flying American flags; among the shrubs, sculptures of dolphins swim and dive in midair; seven sculptures of young boys play around a fountain, under the watch of nun-looking statues nearby.
The place at 139 Bassett was something else besides a dream house—a money pit. On wiretaps, Kruger is overheard chiding Michael Turano about making costly purchases. In one conversation, Kruger talks as a parent might to a spoiled child, telling Turano that he cannot buy a light fixture that costs $15,000.
I asked Kruger if the kickback scheme he devised was really a complicated way of keeping Michael and the rest of the Turanos happy. If they couldn’t rely on him any longer to solve their problems, they might push him away.
“It’s accurate that it’s complicated,” Kruger said. “It’s so complicated that you don’t sort it out. I did what I did, and it was wrong, and I will suffer the consequences.”
When the Feds started watching him, Kruger had reached the upper echelons of Albany’s ruling class. But his seat was surprisingly precarious. Back in 2002, Senate Republicans planned to redraw the district lines, and it was almost certain that Kruger would lose his seat. Kruger then appeared to cut a deal with the Republicans to change the lines in such a way that his career would be extended; in turn, Kruger made the unusual move of supporting a Republican in a tight race. Kruger became a GOP ally, and years later he made history by becoming the first minority-party legislator to be appointed a committee chair by the ruling party.
Kruger had learned he could gain power by leveraging his own Democrats against his new Republican friends. His mastery of the divide-and-conquer game culminated in 2008, when the Democrats were poised to win back the majority. Before the confetti had dropped, Kruger allied himself with a rebel faction of Bronx senators. Dubbed the “Three Amigos,” Kruger and the gang placed the entire Democratic majority in jeopardy by threatening to vote for a Republican leader, then hustling the Democratic leadership for top posts.
Back at the T in Canarsie, members loathed Kruger for his lack of party loyalty yet admired his cunning. “To watch Carl maneuver in politics is like stepping into Picasso’s studio and watching him paint,” one member said. “He puts himself in a position to put himself in position.”
After he became Finance chair, big checks started rolling in. When Kruger first started as a state senator, his campaign account was a piddling one, with a balance of only a few thousand dollars. In 2010, he filed statements that wowed other Albany pols. Here was a senator without any opponents and with a balance in his campaign account of $2.5 million.
Meanwhile, back at 139 Bassett, the Turanos struggled with ballooning payments on their home. The cost of medical-malpractice insurance had become so high it was hard for them to support the luxurious lifestyle they’d become accustomed to. Docked in their backyard was Special Delivery, a 39-foot yacht, and in the garage a $200,000 Bentley brother Gerard had leased.
Kruger had suggested that the Turano boys get into another field. In 2006, Michael formed a company called Olympian Strategic Development. In addition to working as doctors, the Turanos considered a second career as consultants in real estate. It would be easy for them to get hired by local developers. Kruger could help them, and their mother happened to be district manager of the community board.
The side business began to flourish. Soon, a developer sent Olympian checks for nearly half a million dollars in consulting fees for, in part, securing space in a proposed local mall. But it was a questionable setup, especially to the Feds, who began to discover how entwined Kruger was with the business. After subpoenaing bank records, the Feds followed the numbers and discovered that lobbyists with whom Kruger was close were sending Michael Turano hundreds of thousands of dollars. In essence, Kruger was using Olympian and Turano as a kind of bagman for his bribe money and letting Turano spend what he pleased. The Feds listened to the two discuss what envelopes had come in.