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Former Suffolk jail official pleads guilty to federal theft charges

Former Suffolk correction officer Steven Compitello, left, leaves

Former Suffolk correction officer Steven Compitello, left, leaves federal court in Central Islip, on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Credit: John Roca

A former correction officer at the Suffolk County jail admitted Tuesday to illegally collecting $28,122 in pay when he was actually either at home or working as a security guard for the Connetquot school district.

Steven Compitello, 53, of Bohemia, pleaded guilty in federal court in Central Islip to a charge of theft of government funds before U.S. Magistrate Steven Locke.

Compitello, who surrendered morning to FBI agents, put in claims "in excess of 518 hours" for time he did not work, according to court records.

Compitello said in pleading guilty that from September 2011 through April 2014, he "received fraudulent wages in the form of regular and overtime hours . . . In order to receive these wages, I submitted time sheets which contained hours I did not work. . . . I knew I hadn't worked the hours contained in my time sheets. And I knew that because I hadn't worked the hours. I was not entitled to those wages."

Under the terms of a plea deal, Compitello faces up to 6 months in prison and making restitution of the money he illegally earned.

Compitello was originally charged in April with grand larceny by the Suffolk County district attorney's office in the illegal time scheme. That case is still pending. He resigned from the sheriff's office at that time.

Federal prosecutors brought their case Tuesday as part of a wide-ranging investigation into possible corruption at the jail and in Suffolk County politics in general, according to sources.

One focus of the overall federal investigation has been Suffolk County Conservative Party chairman Edward Walsh, a lieutenant at the jail, for also allegedly collecting wages for work he did not perform, according to his attorney, William Wexler. Wexler has staunchly maintained that Walsh has done nothing wrong.

Compitello also had been a Conservative Party committeeman from Islip until this year.

There is federal jurisdiction in the Compitello case because the jail receives federal forfeiture money and other financial aid from the federal government and because the amount of the theft is more than $5,000, according to court records.

After Compitello's plea, his attorney, Thomas Spreer of Babylon, called his client "a good man who went down a slippery slope at a tremendous cost. But he has acknowledged what he did, and he has lost his job and his pension because of it."

Spreer said Compitello has no information that could assist the FBI or federal prosecutors in a broader inquiry. Spreer said his client essentially worked by himself in the jail as an investigator involved in internal security.

A spokeswoman for Eastern District federal prosecutors, Zugiel Soto, declined to comment on Compitello's plea or any possible broader investigation.

One instance of Compitello's double billing the sheriff's office and the school district occurred on Sept. 20, 2011, according to court records.

Compitello claimed he worked overtime from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the jail, and then worked his regular shift from 2 to 10 p.m. But records showed Compitello worked as a security guard at Connetquot from 6 to 10 p.m. and was paid by the district for those hours.

Compitello was released without bail, pending sentencing in March.

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