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Former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto to plead guilty to corruption charges, sources say

Former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto pleaded guilty to state corruption charges Friday in a deal that will spare the former Republican power broker any jail time. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto is expected to plead guilty to state corruption charges Friday in a deal that will spare the former Republican power broker any jail time, sources close to the case said.

Venditto, 70, of Massapequa, is expected to admit in Nassau County Court to a felony charge of corrupt use of position or authority and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct, according to the sources.

“My only comment is that there is an agreement that the pleas will result in a conditional discharge with no fine, no probation, no jail time and no other punishment in any regard,” Manhattan attorney Marc Agnifilo, one of Venditto’s lawyers, told Newsday on Thursday.

Venditto served two decades as Oyster Bay’s top elected official before resigning in January 2017 as a separate federal corruption case was pending against him that ended in May 2018 with his acquittal.

The longtime politician pleaded not guilty at his June 2017 arraignment in Nassau County Court to 10 charges in all, three felonies and seven misdemeanors.

The state corruption charges followed a 14-month probe by Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas’ office that led to the indictments of Venditto and a handful of others with town ties, exposing what she called “a shocking and interconnected web of public corruption” at the highest levels of Oyster Bay’s government.

Singas spokesman Brendan Brosh declined to comment Thursday .

In the federal corruption case, Venditto stood trial with former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda.

The jury in that case found Venditto not guilty of 27 criminal counts that included federal program bribery, wire fraud and securities fraud. That trial ended in a mistrial for the Manganos, who were retried and convicted earlier this year.

Under the state plea deal, Venditto’s expected sentence of a conditional discharge means he will face no other penalty if he doesn’t get into trouble with the law for a certain amount of time – in most cases, a year.

The former public official was facing up to 4 years in prison if convicted of the top count in each of the two indictments against him in the state corruption case.

Both admissions Venditto is expected to make Friday relate to late Oyster Bay Planning and Development Commissioner Frederick Ippolito, sources said.

The June 2017 indictments charged Ippolito with 178 of the 220 total criminal counts in the wide-ranging Oyster Bay case despite the Syosset resident’s death in federal prison earlier that month at age 78. He was serving a 27-month sentence for tax evasion after a 2016 guilty plea.

Ippolito, from 2009 through early 2016, had been the commissioner responsible for enforcement of all town codes and ordinances related to building and zoning and supervised construction permits.

The Nassau district attorney’s office said later that the grand jury had voted on some of the state charges before Ippolito’s death, and a judge ended the state corruption case against him in September 2017.

The three state corruption indictments involved a trio of alleged Oyster Bay schemes: a real estate deal connected to Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc., whose owners face bribery charges; a case of preferential government hiring; and a theft of town services.

Venditto on Friday is expected to admit to an official misconduct charge that accused him and Ippolito of acting as public servants in an unauthorized exercise of their official functions between 2011 and 2012 by advocating for and getting town approval of a rezoning application to benefit Ippolito.

The application would have allowed the construction of a $150 million senior citizen housing complex known as Cantiague Commons – which never got built – on a site initially zoned for light industrial use.

Nassau prosecutors charged that from 2009 to 2016 Ippolito collected $1.6 million from paving company owners Elia "Aly" Lizza and Marisa Lizza to help negotiate anticipated millions in payments to their company from the housing project developer while Ippolito also controlled oversight of the rezoning application and site plan approval in his town job.

The project needed to be rezoned for residential use for the development to be built, according to prosecutors.

The Nassau district attorney’s office alleged Ippolito and Venditto advocated to the town board on behalf of Elia "Aly" Lizza, 71, in connection with the application and concealed Ippolito’s financial interest in the housing deal.

Venditto’s lawyers previously argued in court papers that there were no allegations their client ever received anything of value in exchange for his support.

The former Oyster Bay supervisor also is expected to admit Friday to a felony charge connected to the alleged “unwarranted personal gain” of his friend Ippolito, sources said.

That charge is tied to allegations that Venditto took part in corruptly orchestrating the hiring of a town Parks Department employee at an inflated salary — before his firing later at Ippolito’s “self-serving request.”

Others facing charges in the Oyster Bay-related case are: Elia "Aly" Lizza, and Marisa Lizza, 63, along with their company; Richard Porcelli Sr., 72, Venditto’s longtime campaign manager; and Frank Nocerino, 67, a former town commissioner. They all pleaded not guilty and their cases are pending.

A jury in November acquitted another defendant, former town commissioner Frank Antetomaso, 79, of misdemeanor counts of official misconduct and theft of services. That jury also convicted his nephew, town highway maintenance supervisor Salvatore Cecere, on the same charges.

The panel found Cecere illegally diverted town resources to help Antetomaso’s friend with a sidewalk repair.

Cecere, 52, has yet to be sentenced following a hearing into potential juror misconduct at the trial.

The case at a glance

  • Indicted in June 2017 in the state’s case
  • Pleaded not guilty to 10 charges, including three felonies
  • Facing up to four years on the top count in each of two indictments
  • Accused of playing role in “shocking and interconnected web of public corruption” in Oyster Bay’s government
  • Expected to plead guilty to misdemeanor official misconduct charge
  • Expected to plead guilty to felony charge of corrupt use of position or authority
  • Plea deal expected to include no jail time

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