The twice-delayed sentencing of former Town of Oyster Bay Commissioner Frederick Ippolito for tax evasion is scheduled for Wednesday in federal court in Central Islip.
Ippolito, 77, of Syosset pleaded guilty in January to evading taxes in connection with $2 million in outside consulting fees he received while working as the town’s planning and development commissioner. The money came from Carlo Lizza & Sons, a paving contractor that did business with the town, as well as from the Lizza family trust, according to federal prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler has postponed the sentencing twice, once in July and once in August, saying he was not satisfied with the explanations he had been given as to whether the consultant payments to Ippolito influenced town decisions in awarding paving contracts and what role Ippolito had in awarding the contracts.
“I previously said, ‘There is something rotten in the Town of Oyster Bay,’ ” Wexler said in explaining the July postponement, while again ordering a postponement in August. “I now conclude not only is it rotten, but it smells.”
Wexler said that if he does not get satisfactory explanations, he is considering giving Ippolito the maximum sentence he could impose, which is 5 years in prison.
As part of a plea bargain Ippolito made in January in admitting guilt to tax evasion, he faced a sentence of 18 to 24 months in prison. But while they rarely do so, a federal judge can choose not to honor a plea deal.
Wexler said he was particularly concerned that the town board has said it never received any notice that Ippolito was serving as an outside consultant, “but they knew that he had a personal interest with the Lizzas and received money from them.”
In addition, while Ippolito may have been involved in town actions related to the Lizzas, the town has argued that it “does not matter because the defendant was only reviewing and making recommendations, not the final decisions,” the judge said. “This is totally ridiculous.”
“It is a conflict of interest for the person in charge and making recommendations to the town board to be receiving money from persons or corporations they are reviewing,” Wexler said.
In a presentencing memorandum, submitted to the judge late Friday, Ippolito’s attorney, Brian Griffin of Garden City, requested that his client not receive a 5-year sentence. Griffin argued that Ippolito had filed his financial disclosure forms with the town’s board of ethics, as he was required to do, and “at no time was Mr. Ippolito notified that he had violated any part of the Code of Ethics.”
Griffin also said that one potential conflict that Ippolito may have been perceived as being involved in — centering on two Hicksville parcels of Lizza-owned land on which two asphalt plants had stood — ended up benefiting the town and its citizens.
As reported in Newsday, that case involved Ippolito helping negotiate the rezoning of one Lizza property and the purchase by the town of another nearby Lizza property. One property was to be turned into a senior citizens complex, the other into parkland. Neither project was ever finished.
Griffin has said that Ippolito received no money from the Lizzas for his role in that negotiation.
In the Friday presentencing memorandum, Griffin said he was not arguing “that a conflict of interest is a positive thing or something to be encouraged.” But Griffin said “the defense respectfully asks the court to look at the end result of the perceived conflict of interest.”
The town “was able to shutter two asphalt plants that were by all accounts a true environmental hazard for the citizens of the Town of Oyster Bay . . . the two asphalt plants that were subject to a zoning change [had] been the subject of at least two decades of citizen complaints,” Griffin said.
Federal prosecutors Catherine Mirabile and Raymond Tierney did not submit any new court papers for Wexler to consider.