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Jury selection to begin Friday in Islip fraud case

Thomas Datre Sr., front, and his son, Thomas

Thomas Datre Sr., front, and his son, Thomas Datre Jr., appear outside state Supreme Court in Central Islip on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

Jury selection in a criminal case against members of a former prominent political donor family in Islip -- who are accused of defrauding the town out of hundreds of thousands of dollars -- is set to begin Friday.

Due to the amount of documents in this case, which includes a 492-count indictment, state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho ordered counsel for the defendants -- Kevin Kearon for Tom Datre Jr., Andrew Campanelli for Clara Datre, and Scott Gross for Gia Gatien -- to meet with prosecutors before tomorrow morning to go through the evidence and come up with stipulations to make the trial "as simple and efficient as possible."

"After you've gone through all the exhibits and stipulations and agree to as to what you're going to agree upon and not agree upon . . . let me know on Thursday an honest timetable as to how long this trial will last," Camacho said. It was previously estimated by prosecutors this trial would take as long as three weeks.

Prosecutors allege that actions carried out by Clara Datre and her children, Thomas Datre Jr. and Gatien saw illegal gains of nearly $250,000 from town contracts. By padding invoices to the Town of Islip for cleanup work after superstorm Sandy, the indictments allege, their actions defrauded the town of $148,504. By denying their workers state-mandated prevailing wages for work coinciding with a tree-trimming contract with the town, the family illegally pocketed an additional $100,000, prosecutors have said.

The three were arraigned in December on a charge of failing to pay prevailing wage and second-degree grand larceny, a class C felony that, if convicted, carries up to 15 years in prison. Daytree at Cortland Square Inc., of which Clara Datre is principal, also faces second-degree grand larceny charges.

Clara Datre, 67, of Hauppauge; Thomas Datre Jr., 42, of St. James; and Gatien, 38, of Hauppauge, have all pleaded not guilty. Opening statements are set to be delivered in this case on Oct. 13, Camacho said.

Clara Datre and her husband, Thomas Datre Sr., were longtime donors to Islip's Republican and Conservative parties until Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota publicly announced his probe into illegal dumping in spring 2014.

Datre Jr. is also involved in a separate criminal case involving dumping across four sites in and around Islip Town. Also charged are his father, Thomas Datre Sr.; Christopher Grabe, of Islandia Recycling; Ronald Cianciulli, of Atlas Asphalt; former Islip parks commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. and his former secretary Brett A. Robinson and several companies.The trial on those charges is expected in early 2016, Camacho said. Defendants in that case are due back in court Nov. 19.

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