An odd thing happened when Matthew Talt started amassing traffic tickets several years ago, county officials said.
Some of the charges against him, which included speeding, driving on the sidewalk and driving the wrong way on a one-way street, were dismissed, county officials said. Some were delayed for as long as three years, they said. And some fines and surcharges were removed from the computer database, they said.
Talt's fortune, authorities now say, was due to one very lucky connection: His aunt, Mary Green, was a secretary in the county Traffic and Parking Violations Agency.
Tuesday, Green was one of six employees at that agency to be fired for fixing a total of more than 100 tickets for themselves, their friends and relatives, county officials said. The actions cost the county $25,000 in lost revenue, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi said at a news conference.
Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said her office is looking into criminal charges against them as well.
Neither Green nor Talt could be reached for comment Tuesday.
"Clearly, there was one line for your average Joe, and another line for people with connections," Rice said at the news conference.
Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the county Civil Service Employees Association, which he said represents all six fired employees, said the county rushed to judgment against them.
"We're still waiting to see the proof," he said. "I believe our members will be vindicated." In most cases, he said, the case dismissals that are now being questioned were signed off on by a judge, and not by the employee alone.
The six people included Green, three clerks, a keyboard operator and an assistant director, Suozzi said. None of them could be reached Tuesday.
The agency, which has 38 full-time employees and about as many part-timers, handles 300,000 traffic and parking tickets each year, said agency Executive Director Patricia Reilly. Of those, about 45,000 are dismissed, she said.
Reilly said several of the people fired didn't just fix tickets for themselves. They looked the other way while their co-workers did it, too.
Reilly said the employees should have stopped it. "Instead, they were complicit," she said.
One clerk, Celia Capozzoli, went into the database to change records on tickets her son had gotten for speeding and running a red light, Suozzi said. Joseph Butindari, an assistant director earning $97,000 a year, fixed his own parking tickets and traffic tickets for his niece and his son, Suozzi said.
Suozzi said the agency will begin an immediate review of its procedures to make sure nothing like this can happen again.