State officials have filed a $146,130 tax warrant against Oyster Bay Planning and Development Commissioner Frederick P. Ippolito for taxes owed by a Syosset restaurant that he and his late wife owned.
The Department of Taxation and Finance filed the warrant last week as part of $395,949 in taxes owed by the estate of Christine A. Ippolito and CAI Restaurant, Inc., the company that ran Christiano's.
Ippolito on March 20 was charged with six counts of federal income tax evasion for allegedly failing to report $2 million of income from Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc., a town contractor, and a member of the Lizza family. Ippolito pleaded not guilty.
A tax warrant is a lien that gives the state the right to garnish wages and seize assets to satisfy a debt. State law also allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend the driver's license of a debtor with more than $10,000 in outstanding taxes.
Ippolito's criminal attorney, Brian Griffin of the Garden City law firm Foley Griffin LLP, said in an email that the firm does not represent Ippolito on his state tax issues, but that Ippolito disputed the personal tax liability and "is reviewing all available legal options."
Ippolito did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The state tax charges stem from a 2006 state tax department audit that found the Italian restaurant Christiano's owed $122,608, plus interest for outstanding use and sales taxes. The state concluded Ippolito was personally liable for $66,620 of that debt. Both amounts have grown as interest has accrued.
State Department of Taxation and Finance spokesman Geoffrey Gloak said Ippolito was liable for a part of the total debt because he was not the responsible party during the entire period covered by the audit.
Ippolito challenged his personal liability with the New York State Tax Appeals Tribunal in 2011 on the grounds that the taxes were his wife's responsibility, not his. The tribunal rejected his appeal in 2012, the same year Christine Ippolito died, pointing out that the company's accountant had filed paperwork with the state naming Ippolito as company president and sole officer during a three-year period covered by the audit.
In 2013, he appealed the ruling at the state appellate court in Albany.
"Merely stepping into his wife's shoes through a power of attorney during her illness does not equate to taking an active part in the management and operation of the corporation," his then counsel, Oyster Bay deputy town attorney Frank Scalera, wrote in a 2013 court filing.
But the appellate court wrote in a decision last year that Ippolito "retained the authority to act as a corporate officer and . . . was fully capable of undertaking many of the duties necessary to manage the corporation."
Court records show Ippolito was represented in his tax case by Scalera and Matthew Rozea, also an Oyster Bay deputy town attorney.
Reached at his private office in South Farmingdale on Tuesday, Scalera said he no longer represented Ippolito and declined further comment. Attempts to reach Rozea were unsuccessful.
Oyster Bay officials have said there was no evidence either attorney had worked on the case during town time.
Town Supervisor John Venditto did not respond to an interview request this week to discuss Ippolito.
The restaurant opened in 1958 and was known as a hangout for Islanders hockey players and the inspiration for Billy Joel's song "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant."
Its original owner, James Christiano, died in 1996, the same year that Woodbury-based attorney Anthony J. Cincotta filed incorporation papers for a company called CAI Homes, Inc. that later changed its name to CAI Restaurant, Inc. The Nassau County Republican Committee still lists the shuttered restaurant as the meeting place for the South Syosset/Woodbury Republican Club.Newsday reported in 2013 that a company controlled by restaurateur Harendra Singh had bought Christiano's, which was permanently shuttered last year.