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Ernie Davis probe widens as feds issue more subpoenas in Mount Vernon, sources say

Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis. (Dec. 31, 2012)

Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis. (Dec. 31, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

Federal officials have cast a wider net in their investigation of Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis' financial dealings, Newsday has learned.

Federal prosecutors last week issued a subpoena to the city's Board of Ethics seeking documents related to financial disclosure forms filed, or not filed, by Davis and at least one City Council member, Roberta Apuzzo, said sources familiar with the investigation.

FBI agents and prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office also are investigating whether Apuzzo had someone else sign her financial disclosure forms, law enforcement sources said.

"There was a subpoena basically asking for documents," said Haneef Nelson, a member of the Board of Ethics. He declined to elaborate. The chairwoman of the Board of Ethics, Ronnie Cox, did not return calls seeking comment.

Federal investigators also have issued a subpoena to City Clerk George Brown, seeking documents that were turned over to federal authorities last week, sources told Newsday. Other City Hall department heads have been contacted but not yet subpoenaed.

Brown could not be reached for comment Monday. Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, declined to comment.

The federal probe launched in late November centers on how Davis, 74, came to own 10 properties in four states and whether he reported all the rental income he collected from those residences on his tax forms.

One of those homes, a condominium in Delray Beach, Fla., bought by Davis in 2006, listed Apuzzo's Mount Vernon address on the deed, according to Florida property records. Tax bills for the 758-square-foot condominium at 750 Egret Circle have been sent to Davis at Apuzzo's condominium on Park Lane in Mount Vernon since Davis bought the Florida condo for $180,000, Palm Beach County records show.

Davis called that "a mistake ... that has since been corrected." He was unavailable for comment Monday.

Apuzzo repeatedly has refused to answer questions regarding the property or the investigation. She did not return calls Monday seeking comment.

Apuzzo, 68, who runs a soup kitchen in Mount Vernon, was elected to the council in 2009 with help from Davis, whom some have described as the "architect" of her campaign. He organized fundraisers for her campaign. She served as City Council president last year.

Davis was re-elected mayor in 2011 after being ousted in a 2007 election following three four-year terms as mayor.

Financial disclosure forms for Davis and other Mount Vernon officials have gone missing from City Hall archives, and the legal department has been unable explain what happened to the state-required documents.

After weeks of delay, Mount Vernon officials responded in March to a Newsday request under the Freedom of Information Law for the mayor's financial disclosure forms spanning his years in office by saying City Hall only has one year on file, 2012.

Davis admitted to Newsday he amended his financial disclosure form for 2012 to include at least one omitted property after he learned that federal officials were investigating him.

State law requires that municipalities save the financial filings for at least seven years. In Mount Vernon, the city clerk is responsible for the documents, which are supposed to be reviewed yearly by the municipality's Ethics Board.

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