The new head of federal law enforcement in the Eastern District has had a multifaceted career.
Not only has he been a federal prosecutor, but he also served as supervisor of Brookhaven Town, a vice president of Hofstra University, and was the quarterback of the Yale University football team, throwing the winning touchdown in a Yale-Harvard game.
But Mark Lesko, 54, who was sworn in Monday as the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District by Chief Judge Margo Brodie, is quick to point out it was not The Game — the annual Ivy League varsity classic — but a freshman Yale-Harvard game.
Lesko heads an office of 175 federal prosecutors based in Central Islip and Brooklyn. The office works with agencies such as the FBI, the DEA and HSI, an arm of Homeland Security, to investigate and prosecute violations of federal criminal law and defend the government in civil court. The district includes Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
"I look forward to leading the Office," Lesko said in a statement, "to protect and serve the Eastern District’s more than eight million residents … all in the unwavering pursuit of the fair administration of equal justice."
Lesko succeeds Seth DuCharme who resigned on March 19 and for whom he was the chief assistant.
In his career as a federal prosecutor, Lesko also served as the deputy chief of the Criminal Division on Long Island. His most notable case was the successful prosecution of a wealthy Muttontown couple "who tortured two Indonesian domestic servants" they held as slaves, officials have said.
Lesko joined the Eastern District in 2002, but left several times to take a number of other positions — elected Brookhaven supervisor three times; vice president for economic development at Hofstra University; and executive director of Accelerate Long Island, a collaboration of several universities and research institutions to bring biotech companies to Long Island and New York City.
He returned to the office in October 2018 and became chief assistant in March 2019.
Both Lesko's former and current colleagues and defense attorneys hailed his appointment.
Gail Prudenti, the dean of Hofstra Law School and the former chief administrative judge of New York State courts, said, "His innovative thinking and many years of dedicated and excellent service will allow him to excel in his role as acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York."
Long Island defense attorney Anthony LaPinta said: "Mark is a great person and a terrific lawyer … who possess exceptional people skills [and] will serve as an exceptional role model for the lawyers and staff."
Paul Schoeman, a former chief assistant for the district now in private practice, said: "Mark was an outstanding prosecutor … He's an excellent lawyer with great judgment and a commitment to just and fair outcomes. During his first tour in the office, he was a standout in the Long Island division, where he personally handled or supervised many of the most important and challenging cases."
And Kelly Currie, a former EDNY acting U.S. attorney now in private practice, said: "Mark Lesko has all the qualities you want to see in a U.S. attorney. … He’s a calm and steady leader who enjoys the confidence of the prosecutors, investigators and staff in the office. And the judges and defense bar in the district know Mark as a fair-minded straight shooter."