A onetime Manorhaven Village board of trustees candidate and his accomplice have been indicted by a Nassau grand jury and arraigned on charges of trying to defraud more than $270,000 from the village, officials said Thursday.
The former candidate, Michael V. Mercante, 45, and Carlo M. Strangolagalli, 50, both of Manorhaven, pretended they were the new owners of John Construction -- the company the village had hired to help remove debris, trees and repair curbs and sidewalks after superstorm Sandy swept through the North Shore community, according to village officials and a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
The men demanded payment of $271,914, the balance owed to the company for the cleanup work, officials said.
"These defendants are charged with trying to cheat taxpayers -- their own neighbors in Manorhaven -- out of tens of thousands of dollars and should be held accountable," Rice said in a statement.
Mercante and Strangolagalli could not be reached Thursday.
On Jan. 10, Mercante went to Village Hall and told the clerk he and Carlo Strangolagalli bought John Construction and money the village owed the company should go to them, James E. Toner, the village attorney, said.
A few days later, the men faxed a forged letter purporting to transfer ownership of John Construction from the rightful owner to themselves, he said.
Toner credited village employees, who, he said, recognized several red flags, including the fake letter from John Strangolagalli, the rightful owner.
Toner said John and Carlo Strangolagalli are related but he did not know their connections.
The letter was faxed from a UPS store.
That led officials to call John Strangolagalli to verify whether he had sold the company, Toner said. He told them he did not.
"It was very sophomoric," Toner said. "I don't understand how they thought they canget away with it."
Carlo Strangolagalli was arrested Dec. 10 and arraigned the next day. Mercante was arrested and arraigned Tuesday.
Each was arraigned on one count of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, second-degree attempted grand larceny, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and fifth-degree conspiracy.
They pleaded not guilty and were released without bail. If convicted, they face up to 7 years in prison.
In 2004, Mercante ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Manorhaven Village board of trustees, Mayor Giovanna Giunta said.