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Ex-Town of Hempstead official sentenced for stealing party funds, loan scam

Former Town of Hempstead Deputy Building Commissioner John

Former Town of Hempstead Deputy Building Commissioner John Novello leaves the Nassau County Courthouse on Thursday. Credit: JOHNNY MILANO

A judge Thursday sentenced an ex-Town of Hempstead official to five years of probation for felony convictions after prosecutors said he stole nearly $60,000 from the Cedarhurst Republican Committee and carried out a loan scheme.

Nassau Supervising Judge Teresa Corrigan meted out the punishment to John Novello, 53, of Hewlett Harbor, following his guilty plea in July to two grand larceny charges.

The former Town of Hempstead Building Department deputy commissioner also paid back a negotiated amount of $41,000 in restitution as part of his sentence, according to his attorney, Jerald Carter.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," Novello told Corrigan during his brief court appearance.

Prosecutors said after Novello's arrest in September 2019 that he pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in stolen funds while serving as the committee's executive leader. They said he spent donor money that was meant to support political candidates and causes on personal expenses that included mortgage payments and a winery trip, along with gas, groceries and restaurant meals.

Prosecutors also said then that from January 2016 to August 2019, Novello withdrew more than $20,000 in cash from the committee's campaign bank account and stole more than $37,000 from the proceeds of golf tournament fundraisers.

Novello also pleaded guilty to a separate commercial loan scheme in which prosecutors said he made false representations to a commercial lender to obtain more than $1 million in loans he used to buy and remodel his family's home.

Authorities charged him for that crime earlier this year. Novello created a limited liability corporation with no legitimate business purpose to get the financing, signing affidavits that said the property he was buying was an investment and he and his family wouldn't be living there, according to prosecutors.

Novello resigned from his job with the Town of Hempstead in February after being reassigned following his 2019 indictment to the municipality's General Services Department as a building safety inspector, according to town officials.

The Nassau County Republican Committee called the charges against Novello "deeply troubling" after his 2019 arrest and removed him from his role as an executive committeeman, Newsday previously reported. Novello also served in the past as chief of staff for Assemb. Melissa Miller (R-Atlantic Beach).

Prosecutors said after Novello's 2019 indictment that the Cedarhurst political club failed to file a campaign disclosure with the Nassau County Board of Elections, although required to file disclosures for $1,000 or more in donations to candidates — sending up red flags.

On Thursday, Nassau acting District Attorney Joyce Smith said in a statement that Novello used donor money to enrich himself.

"As a public official and political party leader, John Novello was entrusted with serving the people of Hempstead and leading his Republican club, but instead he used donor funds as his personal piggy bank and made a fake company to scam a lender into giving him a million dollar loan," she said, dubbing the actions "criminal betrayals of trust."

The 2019 indictment charged Novello with five felony counts of grand larceny, two misdemeanor larceny counts and four violations of election law, and he had been facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count against him.

"He is deeply sorry for what transpired," Carter said of Novello after Thursday's sentencing.

The defense lawyer also called the case's outcome "a just resolution" and said Novello is taking architecture courses and hoping to get a certificate of relief that would allow him to get a license in the field following his conviction.

"Now he's moving on with his family ... and hoping just to maintain a full and complete life," Carter added.

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