A former Suffolk legislator, who figured prominently in a county corruption probe almost 20 years ago and pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax evasion, was sentenced to 3 years of supervised release and community service Wednesday, officials said.
U.S. District Court Judge Joan Azrack also ordered Fred Towle Jr., 53, to make restitution of $307,000, to enter a treatment program for his serious gambling addiction and to refrain from gambling. The Republican from Shirley pleaded guilty in 2018 to one count of filing a false income tax return for 2012 in the more recent case.
He faced between 21 to 27 months in prison under sentencing guidelines. But Azrack refrained from putting Towle behind bars because she said it would be unnecessarily “burdensome” due to his frail health. The judge also said she imposed 100 hours of community service over home detention because she felt Towle, whatever his other legal problems, was community oriented.
In asking to be kept out of prison, Towle said he had very serious health problems that were getting worse. He has lost the use of his left eye and had lost 30% of the use in his right eye, but its condition deteriorated another 10% just recently, he said. Towle said he also faces the possibility of amputation of his right leg.
Before he was sentenced, Towle also said he would like “to apologize to the court, my family and friends for my actions. ... The only person I have to blame is myself.”
In arguing that Towle should not be imprisoned, his defense attorney, J. Bruce Maffeo, of Manhattan, said that his client had been attempting to help federal agents accurately reconstruct his financial records, but Maffeo described them as “a complete mess” and “this bowl of spaghetti.”
Towle declined to comment afterward, as did Assistant Eastern District U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile.
Maffeo, however, said: “We are thankful for the judge’s thoughtful and compassionate sentence.”
The income involved in the tax evasion was generated by Towle’s company, East Coast Marketing, which in Suffolk County both engaged in political consulting, and aiding homeowners in obtaining permit approvals from various governments, according to federal prosecutors.
In the early 2000s Towle was the first politician caught in a longtime investigation into political corruption by then Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.
Spota and a top aide, Christopher McPartland, praised Towle, and said his cooperation, including wearing a wire, helped the district attorney’s office make cases against a dozen other officials.
When Towle was sentenced for his role in the corruption case in 2006, Spota said his cooperation was “invaluable” in his office’s investigation. And McPartland said that Towle’s “cooperation helped the district attorney address the culture of corruption in this county.”
Towle had pleaded guilty in 2003 to accepting over $10,000 in bribes, and forwarding part of the money to another public official, whose name was not disclosed, and was eventually sentenced to 6 months in prison.
In sentencing Towle to prison in 2006 for his role in the corruption cases, State Supreme Court Justice Robert Doyle said: “As an elected official, he chose to place his self-interest above the interests of his constituents. ... In doing so, he not only brought disgrace to himself and his family, but also his colleagues on the Suffolk County Legislature and elected officials everywhere.”
Former District Attorney Spota and the head of his corruption unit McPartland now are currently awaiting sentencing following their December conviction before Azrack on charges of helping orchestrate the cover-up of the beating of a prisoner by former Suffolk police chief James Burke.