If his scheme hadn't been so over-the-top, Louis Abate might not have been caught, according to court papers and sources.
But Wednesday the former Nassau County housing official admitted in U.S. District Court in Central Islip that he had stolen $122,000 in federal Department of Housing and Urban Development rent subsidy funds meant for lower-income county residents, according to officials.
As former fiscal director for the county's Office of Housing and Community Development, Abate's job included helping to provide rental assistance money to Island Park residents, Eastern District U. S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
But Abate, 49, of North Massapequa, created a fictitious Island Park landlord, and set up a bank account that he controlled, officials said. Between 2009 and 2011, Abate funneled about $5,000 a month in rental subsidies to the account, officials said.
The size of the subsidies attracted the attention of federal investigators and county officials who began an investigation that led to Abate, according to court papers and the sources.
The $5,000 was "abnormally large" -- three times what other landlords were receiving in the area -- according to court papers filed by Jennifer Schofield-Lake, an agent with the HUD inspector-general's office.
When sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein, Abate could get up to 10 years in prison. But under sentencing guidelines, he'll likely receive 18 to 24 months, restitution of $122,000 and a fine.
Abate's attorney could not be reached. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Flynn declined to comment.