Town of Hempstead Councilman Edward Ambrosino pleaded guilty Wednesday to tax evasion in federal court, prompting the longtime Republican official to resign from his post.
Ambrosino, 54, of North Valley Stream, pleaded guilty in Central Islip to a single count of tax evasion on his personal federal income tax as part of a plea deal, in which he agreed to repay $250,000 in back federal taxes. He was charged in April 2017 with what prosecutors said was a complex scheme in which he siphoned off money that his law firm was entitled to.
In a brief statement before his plea, Ambrosino told U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert that he “knowingly and intentionally” omitted a substantial portion of his income from his personal federal income for 2013.
“Just like the people who put him in office, Ambrosino owed it to his fellow citizens to pay his fair share of taxes,” Eastern District U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in statement. “This office and our law enforcement partners are committed to holding accountable public officials who violate the law.” The case was investigated by the FBI and the Criminal Investigations division of the IRS.
Hempstead Town Attorney Joe Ra said Ambrosino submitted his resignation Wednesday from his post. His last day will be Friday.
The single count Ambrosino acknowledged in the plea was that he reported earnings of $369,000 in 2013, and owed $103,000 in taxes, while he knew that his income and taxes owed were much greater. In that year, Ambrosino failed to report another $315,000 he earned, prosecutors said.
The charges in the original indictment were one count of wire fraud, four counts of federal tax evasion for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013; three counts of making and subscribing false corporate tax returns for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013; and one count of failing to file tax documents.
Ambrosino, an attorney, specializes in economic and industrial development and financing, according to federal officials. He had served as counsel for the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency and the Nassau County Local Economic Assistance Corp. Those agencies paid him the money that he failed to pay taxes on, prosecutors said. Those agencies cut ties with him in 2017 after he was indicted.
Ambrosino’s attorney, James Druker of Garden City, said he was glad the wire fraud count was dropped as part of the plea deal. A conviction on that count carries with it a sentence of up to 20 years. Druker has argued that Ambrosino’s dealings with the law firm were little more than a routine civil dispute over fees.
Eastern District federal prosecutors Catherine Mirabile, who prosecuted the case along with Raymond Tierney, declined to comment.
Tania Lopez, a spokeswoman for the Office of the New York State Comptroller, said courts can revoke or reduce public officials’ state pensions if they are convicted of a felony directly related to their public duties.
Ambrosino failed to forward to his then-law firm $800,000 of the $1.3 million he earned from the two Nassau County agencies. Ambrosino was obligated to send those earnings to the firm, prosecutors said. He was supposed to be paid only a base salary of $200,000, plus just 15 percent of legal fees he collected above $125,000, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, Ambrosino set up a shell company to siphon the money instead of passing it on to the law firm. He then filed false tax returns underreporting the money he had diverted, as well as claiming business expenses for the rental payments on a Manhattan apartment he had set up for an unidentified third party, prosecutors said. Ambrosino knew the apartment rental payments “were not business expenses,” prosecutors said.
The firm was not identified in court papers, but numerous sources have identified it as Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Ambrosino faces between 30 and 37 months in prison. He will repay the federal taxes and an amount to be determined to New York state for back taxes. He has also agreed to pay $700,000 in restitution to the law firm.
Joseph J. Kearney, who was the executive director of both county agencies for more than eight years until January, said Ambrosino “brought tremendous knowledge and expertise to the table” and called his work “exemplary.”
Ambrosino was a protégé of Nassau Republican leader Joseph Cairo, and a longtime friend, confidant. special counsel and financial partner of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Newsday has reported. Mangano and his wife, Linda, were convicted of federal corruption charges in March.
Ambrosino is a former counsel to the Republican majority on the county legislature and when Republicans lost control in 2003, he was appointed to the Hempstead Town Board, replacing Kearney.
The Hempstead Town ethics code bars elected officials from serving when they are convicted of a felony, as in Ambrosino’s case. Ra said, however, that a defendant in the federal system who pleads guilty isn’t technically convicted until sentencing, under federal law.
Ra said the town board can appoint Ambrosino’s replacement. If it fails to act, “the governor may at his discretion call for a special election,” he said.
Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, a Democrat, said she favored a special election to fill Ambrosino’s vacancy. “The only way to properly restore integrity to this Town and to this Council district is by letting the voters decide who should represent them, not Republican Party bosses,” she said in a statement. Hempstead councilwoman and Republican majority leader Erin King Sweeney said she supports filling Ambrosino’s vacancy through an appointment.
The remaining Republican board members hold a 4-2 majority and were all initially appointed to their seats.
With James T. Madore and John Asbury