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Feds: Ex-Nassau official stole Section 8 money

A former Nassau County housing official whose job was to distribute federal housing subsidies to landlords has been charged with diverting more than $122,000 of it into his own bank account.

Louis Abate, 49, of North Massapequa, former fiscal manager of Nassau's Office of Housing and Community Development, pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of theft of public money in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

Magistrate Judge Gary Brown released Abate on bail of $100,000 bond, to be posted by his parents.

Other than denying the allegations, defense attorney Michael Paul of Jackson Heights declined to comment. So did Abate, a county official since 2004.

According to a complaint filed in support of an arrest warrant, Abate helped run the county's Section 8 program, which gives federal money to landlords providing housing to people with low income.

In that role, he helped oversee the Island Park Housing Authority's Section 8 program and issued checks to landlords, said the complaint, filed by Special Agent Jennifer Schofield-Lake of the federal Housing and Urban Development Department's inspector general's office.

She said investigators found that a person named J.M. Watson was getting about $4,950 a month from the program -- more than three times what any other landlord was getting. The thefts occurred from May 2009 to August 2011, authorities said.

County Executive Edward Mangano said his administration noticed something was awry when new leadership took over the department.

"The new head of the department realized something was not right and contacted the federal office of housing and they launched an investigation which resulted in his termination . . . in January," Mangano said. "We expect to receive restitution for the federal dollars that were diverted from the federal program."

In January, Abate denied keeping any records for the Island Park Housing Authority or knowing who J.M. Watson was, the complaint said.

Investigators then found that the checks for Watson were going to a bank account owned by Abate and his wife, Joanne M. Abate, whose maiden name is Watson, the complaint said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Flynn declined to say whether others could be charged with taking part in the scheme.

With Robert Brodsky

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