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Grand jury looking at Suffolk Sheriff Lt. Edward Walsh widens scope

Edward Walsh, Suffolk County Conservative Party chairman, attends

Edward Walsh, Suffolk County Conservative Party chairman, attends a reception in support of Anthony S. Senft Jr.'s campaign for New York State Senate, on March 19, 2014. Credit: Newsday

A federal grand jury investigation into a Suffolk County sheriff's lieutenant has broadened to a wide-ranging look into possible political corruption in the county, according to several sources familiar with the situation.

The investigation began in May when Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco turned over records to the FBI indicating that Lt. Edward Walsh, who also is the county Conservative Party leader, may have been collecting salary for time he did not work.

In addition to Walsh, agents have been inquiring about a range of topics, including what those interviewed know about possible illegalities in the selection of Suffolk judges and the business activities of politically connected figures -- such as Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius, according to the sources.

But it was the inquiry into the salary allegations that led to the variety of other broader questions currently being investigated, they said.

The investigation only is in its initial stages, the sources said, and the process does not necessarily lead to indictments.

A spokesman for federal prosecutors in the Eastern District, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney William Muller, declined to comment.

A grand jury, such as this one in Brooklyn, often hears from witnesses and collects evidence in totally unrelated potential criminal cases.

In the Walsh probe, FBI agents traveled to the Riverhead jail and interviewed at least two members of the department, Newsday has reported. In addition, the grand jury has been issuing subpoenas.

At the jail, the agents talked to co-workers of Walsh who may have been golfing with him at a Westhampton Beach course near the county jail in Riverhead, while he was ostensibly working for the sheriff's department, sources said.

Walsh, the leader of the state's largest county Conservative Party, has been active in the selection of judges in the past.

Newsday reported in May that Walsh was among the targets of an investigation into whether sheriff's office employees collected wages for hours they did not work.

Walsh's attorney, William Wexler, of Babylon, says that his client has been involved only in the nomination of "outstanding candidates" for judgeships, including well-respected prosecutors from the Suffolk County district attorney's office.

As for collecting a salary for not working, Wexler said that the nature of his client's job was such that he could make up at a later date time that he did not work when scheduled.

The general manager of the Hampton Hills Golf and Country Club in Westhampton Beach, Stanley Pine, declined to discuss the FBI's gathering of records of Walsh's golfing there.

James Druker, the attorney for sheriff's investigator Charles Vallillo -- one of the two co-workers initially questioned by the FBI, said earlier this week that his client had done nothing wrong and had no information to provide agents.

The other correction officer questioned was investigator Richard Clark, sources said.

Clark and his attorney, Daniel Sullivan of Central Islip, declined to comment.

Neither Walsh nor any of those questioned have been charged with crimes.

In the case of Melius, agents have been asking whether there is any information about questionable business actions by the Oheka Castle business owner, including when he took over Interceptor Ignition Interlocks, a company that manufactures devices to prevent drunken driving, the sources said.

Walsh was present at an Interlock board meeting after Melius got control of the company, according to records obtained by Newsday.

Walsh said he was there to offer "moral support" to Melius, but DeMarco has said Walsh was supposed to be working for the sheriff's department at the time of the board meeting.

Joseph Conway, of Mineola, one of Melius' attorneys, denied that there was anything inappropriate about his client's actions in any business dealings.

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