The head of a large-scale supplier of building materials on Long Island pleaded guilty Thursday to income tax evasion in a complicated scheme to have his company pay for the private school and college education of his five children.

Roberto Nicolia, 57, the chief executive of Nicolia LLC, pleaded guilty in federal court in Central Islip to a single count of making a false personal tax return, as part of a plea deal. He has repaid the Internal Revenue Service $1.8 million, authorities said.

Nicolia also paid for the taxes on his summer home through his business without reporting that income on his tax returns, Charles Kelly, an Eastern District assistant U.S. attorney, said in federal court in Central Islip.

Among the colleges Nicolia’s children attended were Harvard, Fairfield, Boston College and Hofstra, Kelly said.     

In entering his plea, Nicolia admitted to the scheme, adding that “I knew what I was doing was wrong.”

Kelly said Nicolia used a web of companies connected to the main Nicolia firm in the scheme.     

Nicolia is the top official of the Nicolia companies, with his four other brothers operating many of the related companies, Kelly said.

In the scheme, the bills for the education and real estate were submitted to the different family companies and then passed on to Nicolia for ultimate approval, Kelly said.

Kelly said if the case went to trial, the government would produce unnamed witnesses to say that Nicolia was told he couldn’t bill the cost of his children’s education or the summer home to the family business but that Nicolia said to pay the bills anyway.    

Nicolia pleaded guilty only for the year 2010, in which he did not report $110,000  in education costs the businesses paid for,  Kelly said, adding that the scheme operated from 2007 to 2012.

Nicolia faces up to 3 years in prison when he is sentenced, but he cannot appeal if he gets a sentence of 21 months or less. Sentencing is scheduled for November. 

Nicolia is also involved in the hotel business and real-estate development. There is no suggestion that those businesses or his associates in them were involved in his scheme.

Most recently, he and several partners proposed constructing in Babylon Village a three-building complex, including a 70-room hotel, 30 apartments and retail stores.

Nicolia’s construction-supply business provides ready-mix concrete, masonry, paving stones, and other building materials.

On one of its websites, the company founded by Nicolia’s father describes its history as rising from “a small time ready mix delivery company, to a regional leader in the manufacturing and distribution of concrete and related products.”

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