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Robert Stricoff probe widens to Babylon IDA after he allegedly requested computer records be erased, says source

A Suffolk district attorney's probe into possible improper

A Suffolk district attorney's probe into possible improper payments to former Babylon Democratic leader Robert Stricoff has widened to the town industrial development agency that Stricoff headed after he allegedly asked an aide to erase records from his IDA computer, town and county sources said. Credit: Steve Pfost

A Suffolk district attorney's probe into possible improper payments to former Babylon Democratic leader Robert Stricoff has widened to the town industrial development agency that Stricoff headed after he allegedly asked an aide to erase records from his IDA computer, town and county sources said.

Stricoff made the request to IDA chief fiscal officer Katherine Harris last Friday, the sources said, and Harris called IDA counsel William Wexler for legal advice. One source said Stricoff told Harris to "make a copy of the hard drive and have it scrubbed."

Wexler informed Babylon Supervisor Richard Schaffer, and town officials called District Attorney Thomas Spota's office. The DA's office sent investigators to take the IDA computer, which the town turned over voluntarily.

Stricoff's attorney, John Carman, said, "the computer . . . is a nonissue." He said Stricoff only wanted a copy of the drive made as part of his transition as he was leaving the town IDA post he had held for 12 years.

"Certainly, it was not well thought out, but the DA has it and what they will conclude -- you won't have to take our word for it -- there is no evidence having anything to do with the DA's investigation on that computer," said Carman, a well-known criminal attorney hired two days after the alleged incident. "So while it may look suspicious, it's irrelevant."

Asked if Stricoff had done any political work on the computer, Carman said he had not seen its contents. "Is there an isolated email of a political orientation? I can't rule it out, but nothing in relation to the campaign committee investigation," Carman said.

The DA's probe began two weeks ago. It was launched after a Babylon Democratic Party audit showed that Stricoff as party leader may have been paid as much as $125,000 in unauthorized salary increases and expenses. Stricoff's two-year term as leader ended earlier this week.

Spota, Wexler and Schaffer declined to comment about the computer incident. Patrick Halpin, town IDA chairman, said Wednesday that, "this is the first I'm hearing about it."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a boyhood friend and close political ally of Stricoff's, said Thursday he was aware the DA's office took Stricoff's town IDA computer, but declined to comment further.

Schaffer told party committeemen Wednesday night that Stricoff's situation "was rather difficult to confront," but it was important to "protect the integrity" of the party and its finances. "I'm not an expert on whether a crime has been committed -- that's the district attorney's job," Schaffer said.

Also Thursday, the Suffolk IDA board, which in July voted to hire Stricoff as the agency's $155,000-a-year executive director, met for the first time since the probe became public. Stricoff has told the board he will delay starting work until all questions are answered.

After a 25-minute executive session, the board unanimously approved a resolution to accept Stricoff's request to delay his start. The board said it will "continue to monitor and seek findings of the investigation to inform and determine any future action that the board may wish to take regarding Mr. Stricoff's employment."

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