Elia "Aly" Lizza appears at the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola...

Elia "Aly" Lizza appears at the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola in January. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A judge Tuesday sentenced ex-paving company owner Elia "Aly" Lizza to a 3-year conditional discharge for paying about $1.6 million in bribes to a now-late Oyster Bay commissioner as part of what Nassau's district attorney called a "web of public corruption" in the town.

State Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood sentenced Lizza, 72, in a virtual proceeding that followed the Oyster Bay Cove resident’s January guilty plea to a felony bribery charge.

The judge said he planned at first to sentence Lizza to probation. But he cited the defendant's battle with throat cancer, along with his age and vulnerability to other illnesses while meting out the penalty.

Lizza told Wood he was “very sorry” for the way he did business with the town.

“I understand that the payments I made crossed the line,” he added.

The former owner and CEO of now-dissolved Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. also forfeited $350,000 as part of a deal in which Wood dropped corruption charges against Lizza’s wife, Marisa Lizza, 65.

The husband admitted to paying off Frederick Ippolito, who had served as Oyster Bay’s Planning and Development commissioner. Ippolito died in federal prison after a tax evasion conviction and shortly before authorities unsealed charges against him in the Nassau corruption case.

A grand jury had indicted Marisa Lizza on the same 40 charges as her husband and each had faced the possibility of up to five to 15 years in prison.

An attorney for the couple’s former Old Bethpage-based company, which went out of business after the indictments, previously put in a guilty plea to bribery for the entity.

The couple’s arrests followed a series of 2017 corruption indictments that ensnared several people with ties to the town, including late Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said her office uncovered “a shocking and interconnected web of corruption” in the town before launching several prosecutions that ended Tuesday. While Lizza and Venditto became felons, some of the defendants were exonerated and no one went to prison. 

Singas called Lizza "an active participant" in Oyster Bay's corrupt system in a statement Tuesday and said the case "exposed a brazen pay-to-play culture."

The investigation, she added, also showed "how a dysfunctional government in Oyster Bay benefited crooked contractors and local officials, while honest taxpayers and business owners who played by the rules were shut out."

Attorney John Carman, who represented Elia Lizza, said Tuesday that his client and client’s wife “have already suffered consequences far beyond anything that the law would allow." He said Wood's sentencing decision was largely "an acknowledgment of the severity of the costs already imposed.”  

Prosecutors had alleged the Lizzas paid Ippolito the bribes for negotiating anticipated payments topping $20 million to their company from a housing project developer.

Ippolito, then a commissioner, controlled oversight of the rezoning that would allow the construction of the $150 million senior citizen housing complex known as Cantiague Commons. In the end, it was never built.

While pleading guilty, Lizza said he moved money from a corporate account to a personal account and had his wife write checks to Ippolito without her knowing the purpose of the payments.

Prosecutor Jesse Aviram said Tuesday that evidence against the wife was limited to those checks and asked "in the interest of justice" for her charges to be dropped.

"I truly think it vindicates her," Marisa Lizza's attorney, Marc Gann, said later of the prosecutor's statements — a stance he said the defense took all along.

Venditto, who died in March from cancer, admitted during his 2019 guilty plea that he voted for approval of the rezoning application while knowing Ippolito, a commissioner, also had a financial interest in the deal.

Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. won about $100 million in Nassau contracts from 2002 to 2015, with Lizza family members donating nearly $1 million to county leaders and political party committees in that same time.

Also Tuesday, former Oyster Bay Public Works Commissioner Frank Antetomaso pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct violation after prosecutors agreed to reduce his misdemeanor conspiracy charge.

Wood then sentenced him to a one-year conditional discharge. Such sentences mean defendants face no further penalties if they stay out of legal trouble in the specified time period.

The plea of Antetomaso, 80, of Massapequa, followed a 2018 trial in which a jury acquitted him of official misconduct and theft of services in another case that grew from the same Oyster Bay probe.

"He's basically been fully vindicated," said his attorney, Joseph Conway. "We appreciate that the district attorney saw fit to end the case this way as opposed to a potential lengthy trial."

A series of 2017 indictments accused several people, and one company, with ties to the Town of Oyster Bay, of corruption charges after a probe by the Nassau district attorney’s office. Here is how the cases ended:

Former Town Supervisor John Venditto - pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor, resulting in loss of law license

Town vendor Elia “Aly” Lizza of Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. - pleaded guilty to a felony, got 3-year conditional discharge

Town vendor Marisa Lizza of Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. - charges dropped

Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. - pleaded to felony charge

Ex-Oyster Bay Planning and Development Commissioner Frederick Ippolito - charges abated by death

Ex-Venditto campaign manager Richard Porcelli Sr. - pleaded guilty to misdemeanor, got 1-year conditional discharge and 25 hours of community service

Ex-Oyster Bay Public Works Commissioner Frank Antetomaso - acquitted by jury of misdemeanor charges, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct violation

Oyster Bay highway official Salvatore Cecere - acquitted by judge of misdemeanor charges in retrial after jury’s guilty verdict thrown out because of panel misconduct

Ex-Oyster Bay Parks Commissioner Frank Nocerino - acquitted by judge of misdemeanor charge

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