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Feds eye actions of former Babylon IDA chief Robert Stricoff, sources say

Robert Stricoff on July 30, 2014.

Robert Stricoff on July 30, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Federal investigators have begun examining whether Robert Stricoff, former head of both the Babylon Democratic Party and the town Industrial Development Agency, engaged in “financial improprieties” when he was in those positions, sources said.

Multiple sources confirmed the inquiry headed by the political corruption unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and FBI agents who specialize in the subject.

They stressed the examination of Stricoff’s actions began only recently and that no one has been charged with wrongdoing.

Stricoff, 48, led both the Babylon Democratic Party and the town IDA from 2002 to 2014.

The sources, responding to questions, confirmed the subjects investigators are examining include information originally generated by Democratic Party chief Richard Schaffer and forwarded to the Suffolk district attorney, and a district attorney probe of whether Stricoff had sought to have an IDA official erase records from his IDA computers.

The IDA works with businesses to promote “sustainable development and job growth,” according to the agency’s website.

“Robert Stricoff welcomes any impartial inquiry into his performance and record-keeping at the Babylon IDA,” Stricoff’s attorney, John Carman, said in an emailed statement this week.

“That said, we believe that the United States Attorney is merely reviewing allegations borne from the dirty politics of Suffolk County over three years ago,” Carman said.

Asked about the information generated by Schaffer, Carman said: “If they are picking over the corpse of the claim that Stricoff gave himself a pay raise, they are wasting their time.”

The examination of Stricoff’s actions is part of the Justice Department’s investigation of political corruption in Suffolk County, according to sources. Top officials and attorneys for the Babylon IDA are scheduled to meet with federal investigators about the case this week, sources said.

John Marzulli, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District, declined to comment.

Stricoff, a childhood friend and close ally of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, was chief executive officer of the Babylon IDA from 2002 until Sept. 12, 2014, when he resigned after his appointment as executive director of the Suffolk County IDA.

Stricoff declined the county post after Schaffer brought the findings of a party audit to then-Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Sources said at the time the alleged irregularities concerned as much as $125,000 in unauthorized salary payments and reimbursements to Stricoff.

Shortly after that referral, Newsday reported that Spota’s office had widened its probe to the Babylon IDA after Stricoff asked the agency’s chief fiscal officer Katherine Harris to erase records from his IDA computer. She declined to do that after seeking advice from IDA counsel William Wexler.

Carman said at the time that Stricoff only wanted a copy of the drive for his transition to the county IDA.

Spota has been charged by federal prosecutors with obstructing an investigation of former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke’s beating of a burglary suspect. Spota pleaded not guilty to the charges in October and left the DA’s office. Burke pleaded guilty in February 2016 to conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and violating the victim’s civil rights and was sentenced in November 2016 to 46 months in prison. Burke has filed papers to appeal his sentence.

Wexler declined to comment on whether FBI agents had interviewed town IDA staffers or board members.

But Nancy Delaney, who worked as an administrative assistant to the IDA and previously as an assistant to Bellone, said she was interviewed by FBI agents about a week ago. She said the agents asked her about her position and duties, as well as Stricoff’s attendance.

Babylon IDA Chairman Patrick Halpin said he has not been interviewed by the FBI, but declined to comment on whether he has been contacted by federal authorities.

Carman defended Stricoff’s tenure at the town agency.

“Stricoff’s leadership and dedication at the Babylon IDA were unmatched,” he said.

With Rick Brand

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