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Long IslandCrime

Appellate court throws out Guldi conviction, upholds guilty pleas

Former Suffolk County legislator George Guldi, left, is

Former Suffolk County legislator George Guldi, left, is shown in court in Riverhead for his sentencing on March 21, 2011. He received 4-12 years on grand larceny and insurance fraud charges. His attorney Leonard Lato, is at right. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A New York State appellate court on Wednesday threw out the 2011 conviction of former Suffolk legislator George O. Guldi on grand larceny and insurance fraud charges, but upheld his separate guilty pleas in a $82 million mortgage fraud scheme.

The Appellate Division, Second Department, found that during a March 2011 trial, the Suffolk County Court had “erred” by not dismissing a prospective juror who worked for AIG, the insurance company that allegedly was defrauded by Guldi after a house fire. The panel ordered the case back to County Court for a new trial.

Guldi was unsuccessful in his attempt to throw out his separate guilty pleas on 34 counts of grand larceny and scheme to defraud in connection with what had been described by prosecutors as the largest mortgage fraud ring in Suffolk history. The appellate court found that he had not been induced to plead guilty.

Guldi, who served as a county legislator from Westhampton Beach between 1995 and 2003, is serving up to 12 years in prison at Marcy Correctional Facility, according to court records. His next parole date is set for April 2018. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday, a state corrections spokeswoman said. He represented himself in the appeal.

Terri Scofield, a longtime friend of Guldi who worked as a paralegal on his appeal, called the decision a “partial vindication.”

Bob Clifford, spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota, said Wednesday no decision has been made yet whether to retry Guldi.

Guldi had been convicted by a jury on charges of grand larceny in the second degree and insurance fraud in the third degree associated with receiving more than $850,000 in insurance proceeds from a fire that gutted his home.

During jury selection, one of the jurors disclosed that she worked for AIG.

“We note that, in response to the defendant’s questions, the prospective juror did not provide a completely unequivocal assurance that she could be fair and impartial,” according to the appellate division decision. “Thereafter, the County Court denied the defendant’s for-cause challenge without asking the prospective juror any questions about her employment at AIG or how it might affect her ability to serve as a juror.”

Now-retired Judge James F.X. Doyle said Wednesday that he did not recall a juror saying she worked for AIG. “Nothing comes to mind. Basically it was a fair trail,” he said. “The jury seemed to be pretty open and pretty fair. It wasn’t like a battle.”

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