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Town official arrested for laptop theft quits

Hempstead Town Hall Plaza is at 1 Washington

Hempstead Town Hall Plaza is at 1 Washington St. Credit: J.C. Cherubini, 2011

A longtime Hempstead Town code enforcement officer has resigned after being charged with felony grand larceny for allegedly stealing a laptop computer from his supervisor's office.

Stephen Centore was arrested on March 5, four days after he purportedly took a Panasonic Toughbook computer worth more than $1,000 from the office of the building department's chief of public assembly in Town Hall in Hempstead Village, law enforcement officials said.

Centore, 56, of Franklin Square, "did not have permission and or authority to use, possess or remove this item from the office," according to documents filed in Nassau County First District Court.

Centore's supervisor, Christopher Cappelli, who has worked for the town for 18 years, reported his laptop missing to deputy buildings commissioner Rita Fisher, who then notified buildings commissioner John Rottkamp, who advised her to check security video footage, Hempstead Village police Lt. Francis McNamee said.

Centore was seen on video entering the unlocked office, exiting the building holding the laptop, and re-entering the building without the computer. Rottkamp reported the alleged theft to Hempstead Village police, who arrested and later released Centore on a desk appearance ticket, McNamee said.

Centore was arraigned on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. Centore was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court May 2. He faces up to 4 years in prison if convicted, district attorney spokesman Chris Munzing said.

Central Islip-based attorney James D'Angelo, who represents Centore, said his client "stands by his not guilty plea." An unidentified man who answered the phone at Centore's residence yesterday declined to comment and hung up.

There was "no independent internal investigation. Everything we have done is in cooperation with law enforcement and the district attorney's office," town spokesman Michael Deery said. He added, "Employees who commit theft are subject to suspension or dismissal, depending on the circumstances."

Centore, who started working for the town in 1985, earned a salary of $109,000. As part of his job duties, Centore inspected nonprofit entities and Section 8 housing. He resigned from the town building department on March 8, Deery said.

Centore has been suspended for 60 days in 2007 and fined the following year after pleading guilty to illegally maintaining a single-family Franklin Square home as a two-family rental.

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