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Conservative Party head Edward Walsh golfed, gambled on government time, say prosecutors

Edward Walsh, leaves the federal court building in

Edward Walsh, leaves the federal court building in Central Islip with his lawyer after being arraigned Wednesday afternoon on Jan. 7, 2015. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Edward Walsh, the head of the Suffolk Conservative Party and a lieutenant in the county sheriff's department, collected more than $80,000 for working at the jail when he was actually golfing, gambling and engaged in political activities, according to court papers.

An FBI complaint on Walsh's arrest, disclosed at his arraignment Wednesday, said that at various times between 2011 to 2014, Walsh, while on government time, was actually on the Hampton Hills golf course, gambling at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, working for the Conservative Party and attending a shareholder meeting of Interceptor Ignition Interlocks in Shirley.

New York FBI director George Venizelos said: "Mr. Walsh shook down county government for hours he never worked . . . In reality, he was often on the ninth hole practicing his putting, among other things."

The complaint also said Walsh lied to an FBI agent, a felony, when he said that he constantly made calls related to his work for the sheriff when he was golfing. He was not charged with that Wednesday, however.

The information in the complaint was based on matching Walsh's department time sheets with his locations based on cellphone, ATM withdrawal, toll and casino records.

In one example, the complaint said Walsh put in for five hours overtime and one hour travel time for working on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012 at the Riverhead department complex. Yet that day no calls were made from the Riverhead area from or to his cell phone, according to the complaint. And the calls on Walsh's cell phone then were made or received from Connecticut, many near the Foxwoods Casino. Casino records indicate Walsh was playing poker there for an hour and 43 minutes, the complaint said.Walsh surrendered to FBI agents yesterday morning for processing, and was held in a U.S. Marshals cell in the federal court in Central Islip before being arraigned on the charge of theft of government services. Federal prosecutors have jurisdiction in the case because the jail receives government funding.

He was not required to enter a plea and was released on a $50,000 personal bond by magistrate A. Kathleen Tomlinson, pending future hearings.

Walsh declined to comment after the arraignment.

But his attorney William Wexler, of Babylon, said outside court that DeMarco had praised Walsh for more than seven years as one of the finest employees in the sheriff's department.

"But 21/2 weeks after they had a political dispute, the sheriff is at the FBI saying he's shocked my client wasn't working when he filed time slips," Wexler said. Wexler would not disclose the nature of the political dispute.

Walsh had been instrumental in having the Suffolk Sheriff, Vincent DeMarco, a fellow Conservative Party member, twice run successfully without opposition from Democrats or Republicans.

After Walsh was arrested Wednesday, DeMarco ordered Walsh suspended without pay. Wexler said Walsh planned to fight the suspension.

In a statement, DeMarco disputed Wexler's previous defenses of his client when the FBI investigation became publicly known several months ago.

Wexler had said that Walsh's job essentially was to serve as a liaison to the judiciary and the community and he was not expected to be regularly in the jail. He also said Walsh's office in Riverhead was near DeMarco's, so the sheriff had to know that Walsh often was not present.

In his statement Wednesday, DeMarco said, "Lt. Walsh's job required him to work within the . . . [Riverhead] correctional complex." DeMarco said that while he has a satellite office in Riverhead, his primary offices have been in Yaphank and Central Islip.

In a statement, United States Attorney Loretta Lynch said, "Instead of upholding the law, Edward Walsh abused his position and authority and robbed from taxpayer to fund his personal and political activities."

Based on an agreement between Assistant United States Attorneys Catherine Mirabile and Raymond Tierney and defense attorneys Wexler and Leonard Lato, of Hauppauge, the government will have 60 days to indict Walsh, work out a plea deal, dismiss the charge, or ask for more time to continue the case.

Walsh faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the theft charge, but is more likely to be sentenced to 15 to 21 months under suggested federal guidelines.

With William Murphy

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