A Freeport contractor is facing felony charges after his arrest Tuesday in the alleged theft of more than $110,000 from a Mineola church that hired him to build a new sanctuary, according to prosecutors.
In 2014, Gennaro Festa, 72, owner of Falcon General Construction Service, contracted with Grace International Assembly of God to do demolition work along with the new construction, authorities said Wednesday.
But Festa then used a check for $116,760 that the church gave him to pay for steel on his own expenses, including food and gas, according to the Nassau district attorney’s office.
A Hempstead District Court judge released Festa on his own recognizance Tuesday after his arraignment on charges of grand larceny and scheme to defraud, court records show.
Festa’s attorney, Richard Benson, said Wednesday his client pleaded not guilty.
“The accusations, when all is said and done, you will see that all the money went into this particular project and there wasn’t any diversion of funds,” the Oceanside lawyer said.
Prosecutors said Festa attended meetings with the church between 2014 and 2017 on the progress of the project and said he had the steel in storage, while also submitting at least a dozen certificates that falsely said he had obtained and was storing the steel.
In early 2017, church officials contacted the steel supplier and found that the steel had not been ordered, paid for, or delivered to a storage location, prosecutors said.
The church reconstruction has been stalled as a consequence,the district attorney’s office said Wednesday.
Church officials could not be reached by telephone Wednesday.