A construction manager from Bellmore was hit Tuesday with federal charges that he took $2 million in kickbacks - including $350,000 to help him buy Wantagh waterfront property.
Lawrence Pesce, 45, construction manager for Touro College, was accused in federal court in Manhattan of ripping off his employer by arranging for an inflated bid and fraudulent invoices from a New Jersey contractor for a $12-million project at Touro's Manhattan campus.
Pesce allegedly got his kickbacks in the form of $568,000 in checks made out to a phony company, $200,000 in envelopes stuffed with cash that were passed at diners and other locations, and real estate deals in Wantagh and Wappingers Falls.
In Wantagh, the construction company - which is cooperating with the government and was not named - paid $350,000 of the $400,000 purchase price in 2009, the complaint alleges. Real estate records indicate that Pesce bought a $400,000 property at 2526 Riverside Dr., abutting Bellmore Creek, on Jan. 30, 2009.
According to the criminal complaint, the informant asked Pesce about his Long Island property in a secret tape made this May.
"I am just about to submit for the variance," Pesce said. "I'm also getting the house forward because what . . . do I need a big lawn to take care of? I want to set the thing as far in and have the big backyard."
Pesce, charged with fraud, was released Tuesday on $250,000 bond. He is due in court on July 22 and has asked for a court-appointed lawyer. His current lawyer, Royce Russell of Manhattan, did not return a call for comment.
A spokeswoman for Touro said the project that was the subject of the alleged kickbacks was a site for schools of osteopathic medicine and pharmacy. She said college officials were "outraged" and Pesce has been suspended without pay.
According to the criminal complaint, the scheme collapsed when the New Jersey construction company's owner agreed to plead guilty to bribing union officials and alerted officials to the scheme, with Pesce as part of the owner's plea deal this March.
Pesce, the complaint says, arranged for the New Jersey firm to win the job for a rigged bid of $10.7 million when its cost estimate was $8.8 million, and approved inflated change orders.