MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Corruption charges were filed Thursday against more than half a dozen officials and contractors in the Town of Oyster Bay on Long Island.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, bribes and favors were allegedly business as usual where a quarter of Nassau County residents live.
The shocking web of corruption at the highest levels of Oyster Bay town government, according to the Nassau County District Attorney’s office. Seven people who once made and enforced the laws in the sprawling Nassau County town are now accused of breaking them.
Former town supervisor John Venditto was seen in handcuffs Thursday. Also charged were former Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety and town Parks Commissioner Frank Nocerino, former town Public Works Commissioner Frank Antetomaso, and North Massapequa Republican Club deputy executive leader Richard Porcelli; highway department employee Salvatore Cecere; and contractors Elia and Marisa Lizza.
They face a laundry list of charges, including, “bribery, money laundering, a crooked multi-million dollar property deal, rampant nepotism, and illegal favors to the family and friends of those in power in Oyster Bay government,” said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas.
Singas said wiretaps first uncovered a politically-connected worker hired at double the going rate, despite a hiring freeze. Then came a steady stream of bribes allegedly paid by a Bethpage paving company in exchange for a lucrative housing development in Hicksville.
Also alleged was rampant favoritism – including a tree removed as a political favor.
“We found that connected residents got favors at the expense of the average taxpayer,” Singas said.
At the heart of the cases is the deceased Frederick Ippolito, the town’s disgraced planning commissioner. The former supervisor is accused of enabling Ippolito’s misdeeds.
“He plans to fight these charges and we’re confident he will prevail,” said John Kirshner, attorney for Venditto.
Defense attorneys said the DA is overreaching.
“That ambition was to fulfill a campaign promise and it’s got nothing to do with justice,” said defense attorney Joe Ferri.
The man now running Oyster Bay, who has instituted reforms, reacted to the indictments Thursday.
“With these indictments, supervisor Venditto and his inner circle have become national poster boys for public corruption, mismanagement and malfeasance,” said Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino.
Others are calling for a clean slate.
“Oyster Bay residents are fed up with reading about and watching the parade of corruption scandals night after night,” said Dr. Marc Herman, a candidate for Oyster Bay town supervisor.
The District Attorney’s office said the culture of corruption involved millions of dollars, victimizing honest taxpayers who play by the rules.
Former Supervisor Venditto is already facing separate federal corruption charges. He faces one and one-third to four years in prison if convicted of these new charges, including conspiracy to official misconduct.