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Ex-Nassau OTB chief Easa Easa dies; led GOP in W. Hempstead

Easa Easa, shown in a Dec. 30,

Easa Easa, shown in a Dec. 30, 1971, photo, headed Nassau Off-Track Betting for 18 years and was a GOP leader in West Hempstead. He died Nov. 8, 2016, from complications of congestive heart failure. Credit: Newsday / Ken Spencer

Easa Easa, the president of Nassau Off-Track Betting for 18 years and a Republican leader in West Hempstead whose real estate deals in the 1980s were scrutinized for possible impropriety, died Nov. 8. He was 86.

The cause was complications from congestive heart failure, according to his son, Larry Easa.

Born March 17, 1930, to Palestinian immigrants in Brooklyn, Easa was raised in Hempstead and West Hempstead, where he would later become a political force.

His father was born Easa Jaghab but his name was switched to Jaghab Easa when he immigrated to the United States; he wanted to pass along the family first name of “Easa” to his son, Larry Easa said.

Easa received his law degree from St. John’s University and served in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Office during the Vietnam War, Larry Easa said.

Easa got involved in GOP politics in the 1950s and ultimately served on the Nassau County Republican Party’s executive committee. He was also the first president of the Nassau OTB — the state’s most profitable betting agency at the time — and a councilman on the Hempstead Town Board.

“A lot of people helped him and his family when they came to the United States, so he was basically trying to return the favor,” Larry Easa said. “He was given a great chance in life and he used his good fortunes to help other people.”

Though he didn’t put in regular office hours at the OTB — Newsday stories say he spent part of his time at his nearby law office, as well as playing cards at the Hempstead Country Club — he insisted, “I am working for OTB wherever I am.”

Newsday reports questioned some of Easa’s real estate deals that were aided by local politicians’ decisions in his firm’s favor. Easa denied allegations of improper conduct and said the agreements were not made based on his Republican connections.

“There was no hanky-panky at any time,” Easa said at the time. “I don’t operate that way, and any inference like that is the wrong inference.”

In addition to his son, Easa is survived by his wife, Patricia, of West Hempstead; sister Mary Jane Zarou of Oyster Bay; and granddaughter Lily.

Services were at the Cathedral of St. Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Hempstead. He was buried at Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale.

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