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Former Suffolk County Legis. Fred Towle Jr. pleads guilty to federal tax crime

Former Suffolk County Legis. Fred Towle Jr. leaves

Former Suffolk County Legis. Fred Towle Jr. leaves federal court in Central Islip on Wednesday. Credit: James Carbone

Fred Towle Jr., who resigned from the Suffolk County Legislature in 2003 and was sentenced to 6 months in prison as part of a probe into political corruption, pleaded guilty Wednesday to filing a false tax return.

Towle faces up to 3 years in prison when sentenced and agreed to make a restitution of $307,000.

As part of a plea agreement, Towle pleaded to a single count of filing a false income tax return for 2012 at the federal court in Central Islip.

 The amount of restitution, however, was based on his failing to pay taxes from 2012 to 2014 on an income of $1.2 million, according to a memo filed by Eastern  District Assistant prosecutors Raymond Tierney and Catherine Mirabile.

The money was generated by Towle’s company, East Coast Marketing, which specialized in political consulting and assisting homeowners in getting permit approvals from various government entities in Suffolk County, the memo said.

At his arraignment before magistrate A. Kathleen Tomlinson, Towle, a Republican, said: “I knew what I was doing was illegal and unlawful when I did it.”

 Eastern District U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement: “This office, together with our partners at the FBI and the IRS, recognizes that tax evasion victimizes every law-abiding, tax-paying American and we will vigorously prosecute those like the defendant who believe they are above the law.”

Towle’s attorney, J. Bruce Maffeo of Manhattan, said his client accepted full responsibility. “He regrets his action and hopes to make amends . . . and close this chapter in his life and move on,” Maffeo said.

In 2003, Towle, 52, of Shirley, who had been a county legislator for more than seven years, pleaded guilty to accepting more than $10,000 in bribes, and passing part of the money to another public official whose name was not revealed, officials said.

Towle also pleaded guilty to scheming to defraud the government.

 In imposing sentence on Towle in 2006, 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.”

Towle was the first politician caught in a lengthy investigation into political corruption in Suffolk by the county district attorney’s office. Officials said Towle’s cooperation, including wearing a wire, led to the office helping to make cases against a dozen other officials.

 At the time of Towle’s Suffolk sentencing in 2006, then Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said Towle’s cooperation was “invaluable” in the corruption probe.

 Suffolk prosecutor Christopher McPartland said at Towle’s sentencing that “his cooperation helped the district attorney address the culture of corruption in this county.”

 Now both Spota and McPartland are facing trial in March in an unrelated case in the same Central Islip federal courthouse where Towle was arraigned Wednesday. The Spota and McPartland cases involve charges of a cover-up in connection with the beating of a person by James Burke, former Suffolk police chief.

The Towle case also had a profound effect on the political situation in Suffolk County. “It demoralized the Republicans,” said Paul Sabatino, Suffolk’s chief deputy county executive. “And it sent a corresponding surge through the Democrats.”    

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