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Oyster Bay ex-commissioner still influenced town, affidavit says

Former Town of Oyster Bay Commissioner Frederick Ippolito

Former Town of Oyster Bay Commissioner Frederick Ippolito arrives at Federal Court for sentencing in Central Islip, Sept. 28, 2016. Ippolito died in June. Credit: Ed Betz

Oyster Bay’s former commissioner of planning and development Frederick Ippolito continued to make decisions and exert influence in town government after he was forced out of the job last year, according to an affidavit by an investigator for Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas.

Ippolito, who died in federal prison in June, left office as required by state law after pleading guilty in January 2016 to federal income tax evasion. But, the investigator alleged, Ippolito remained a force in town government.

The affidavit, signed by investigator Gavin Shea and dated July 14, 2016, was filed as part of a request for a judge to approve a wiretap on Ippolito, former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto and town contractor Elia “Aly” Lizza, chief executive of Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc.

A judge last year approved wiretaps on several individuals’ phones, including those of Ippolito and Venditto. Information revealed in those wiretaps was used to indict Venditto, Lizza and others on corruption charges in June. They have pleaded not guilty.

Ippolito, though deceased, was also indicted on dozens of charges of soliciting and accepting bribes, and official misconduct. Venditto was charged with conspiracy, defrauding the government, official misconduct and corrupt use of authority or position. Lizza was charged with conspiracy, defrauding the government, bribery and rewarding official misconduct.

“The investigation has revealed that Ippolito is holding himself out as and is exercising the functions of the Commissioner of Planning and Development,” Shea wrote. “The investigation has also shown that Ippolito uses Venditto as his conduit to effect official actions within the [town] government, such as securing employment for others, personnel transfers, and budgeting.”

The affidavit was made public in a filing in federal court by Kevin Keating, the Garden City-based attorney representing Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in his corruption case over allegations related to former Oyster Bay concessionaire Harendra Singh. Last year, Mangano was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice and extortion. He has pleaded not guilty.

Ippolito’s criminal lawyer, Brian Griffin, who continues to represent Ippolito as long as he remains named in the indictment, declined to comment on the affidavit.

A spokesman for Singas’ office declined to comment, citing “pending criminal cases.”

Singas first made allegations about Ippolito’s town influence at a June 29 news conference following the unsealing of indictments against Ippolito, Venditto and other former and current town officials, employees and vendors. Singas said that investigation began after reports that Ippolito continued to work even though his conviction required his removal.

In a Jan. 28, 2016, letter to Venditto, Singas warned that “any public officer” who refused to “effectuate the removal of Mr. Ippolito may be committing the crime of official misconduct.”

Shea wrote in his affidavit that he believed Ippolito was communicating “directives” to Venditto by telephone and in person, away from Oyster Bay Town Hall.

In an April 26, 2016, recorded conversation between Ippolito and a confidential informant, Ippolito said the town couldn’t get rid of him. “I’m still the commissioner. They can’t fire me,” Ippolito said, according to the affidavit.

Venditto’s criminal defense attorney, Marc Agnifilo, said Shea had made assumptions and reached conclusions that were inaccurate.

“The fact there’s a contention that Venditto followed orders of Ippolito is frankly ludicrous,” Agnifilo said. “He was communicating with my client, they’ve known each other for many years, but that my client would have been a conduit for Ippolito exerting control over public matters is absolutely not true.”

According to the affidavit, Ippolito wrote in a May 17, 2016, text message to a confidential informant that “mondello,” wanted Ippolito to “save or bail out” the town of Oyster Bay, which had just seen its credit rating downgraded to junk bond status. Shea wrote that he believed references to Mondello referred to Nassau County Republican Party chairman Joseph Mondello.

“I’ve been on the phone all day laying out a program that will remove the junk bond classification reduce the operating and capital programs and balance the budget!” Ippolito’s text message stated.

Ellen Muller, Mondello’s spokeswoman, said the allegation was “a complete fabrication.”

“Chairman Mondello never gets involved in the workings of government,” Muller said in an email.

Reference to Ippolito’s continued influence in the town was included in one of the indictments against Venditto and others. That indictment alleged that Ippolito had Venditto and others fire a town employee. “John Venditto allowed Frederick Ippolito to play an active role in the management of TOB [Town of Oyster Bay] after Ippolito had been removed from TOB public office pursuant to . . . public officers law,” the charge for official misconduct read.

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