Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Ed Walsh’s political dealings and purchases he made for golf outings, ferry rides to Connecticut, and outdoor shopping malls took center stage during the second day of his ongoing federal fraud trial.
Prosecutors invested significant time Thursday questioning witnesses on records maintained by golf courses, a credit card company, and various retailers to bolster their accusations that Walsh was either hitting the greens, conducting Suffolk County Conservative Party business, gambling at casinos, or shopping while he was supposed to be working at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office in Riverhead. Walsh, who was a lieutenant, has since retired.
A day earlier, prosecutors promised to layout a “paper trail” proving Walsh was absent from work.
Walsh’s political connections also came into play on Day Two. The jury at U.S. District Court in Central Islip also heard testimony from Jerry Wolkoff, a wealthy real estate developer; Anthony Senft, a Suffolk County District Court Judge; and John Ruocco, a businessman who said he met Walsh through Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius.
Walsh was indicted in January 2015 for allegedly defrauding Suffolk of more than $80,000 in no-show work. He was additionally charged with theft of funds and wire fraud last March. Walsh pleaded not guilty and has denied the charges. His attorneys contend that if Walsh was not at his desk, it was because he was conducting business at the behest of his boss, Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco.
Prosecutors filed a lengthy pretrial motion March 8 alleging that several attempts by DeMarco to investigate Walsh were killed by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota—accusations Spota’s office has denied.
The trial continued Thursday with testimony from Christina Ofeldt, the bookkeeper at Hampton Hills Golf Course & Country Club, of which Walsh was a “weekday” member who benefited from a police and armed services discount. Walsh was also provided guest passes, which were used on multiple occasions, Ofeldt testified.
The country club had invoices from more than dozen dates between 2010 and 2013 containing purchases for golf rounds and other items that were posted on Walsh’s account, including charges for golf carts, beverages, and a cigar, Ofeldt testified.
The government also produced a guest pass for a person identified as “Rich” and marked with an expiration date. Ofeldt, however, admitted that the club does not strictly enforce expiration dates.
Walsh’s attorney Leonard Lato got Ofeldt to testify that there was no year specified on the date the guest pass was used—Aug. 13—therefore, impossible to know when the pair actually played. She also said there was no way of knowing if “Rich” was the person’s true name and no way of knowing if Walsh left before completing his round.
The jury also heard testimony from Kevin Kline of the Metropolitan Golf Association, who oversees a program called Golf Handicap Information Network, which maintains golfers’ statistics and evaluates scores to produce a handicap. Walsh used the system, Kline testified, and made 23 entries between Aug. 15, 2013 and Oct. 22, 2013 at various courses, including Sebonack Golf Course in Southampton. But on cross examination, Kline admitted he was unsure if the days Walsh golfed were actual work days.
Walsh played Sebonack as a guest at least four times, according to the course’s director of golf, Jason McCarty. McCarty testified that Walsh and Wolkoff, who was a member of the course, played a round at 2:45 p.m. on May 10, 2013 and chose to walk the course. The pair also played a round with Senft on Friday, May 31, 2013, he testified, adding that Wolkoff is considered an “extremely fast golfer.”
The most electric testimony of the day came from the 79-year-old Wolkoff, who admitted to contributing $20,000 to the Suffolk County Conservative Party between 2014 and 2015.
“I got to know Ed Walsh and I thought he was doing a terrific job,” Wolkoff said, testifying that his donations were a result of Walsh’s aptitude and not to curry favor with elected officials who may be able to assist him with zoning issues.
Wolkoff is in the midst of one of the largest redevelopment projects on Long Island, which would transform the abandoned Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center property in the Town of Islip into a mixed-use “town square.”
Wolkoff said he remembered golfing with Walsh at Sebonack but, “I can’t remember all the dates.”
Asked whether they discussed business issues, Wolkoff said “I might of.” Walsh, he testified, once commented that he may have to leave if he got a call from work, but Wolkoff said he didn’t recall Walsh abandoning a round early.
When Wolkoff was asked whether Walsh ever facilitated meetings with elected officials, Wolkoff said “No,” but later admitted that Walsh did help the developer meet Mary Kate Mullen, then a candidate for Islip Town Council, at his office. Walsh was also in attendance, Wolkoff testified.
Wolkoff said he was considering supporting Mullen’s campaign and wanted to meet with her.
The developer testified that he donated $1,000 to the New York State Conservative Party from 2014 to 2016, a sliver compared to the $20,000 he donated to Suffolk’s arm of the party.
Testimony transitioned into claims from prosecutors that Wolkoff reneged on an agreement to meet with the government prior to the trial. Catherine Mirabile, a prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, then suggested Wolkoff met with Lato, an assertion Wolkoff brushed away by claiming all he said was “Hello.”
When it was the defense’s turn, Wolkoff said he’s been a registered Conservative for more than 50 years but also contributed to Democrats and Republicans.
He also boasted about his pace on the golf course. “I like to move quickly,” he said, adding that Walsh is not nearly as quick, which Walsh blames on bad knees.
“[Walsh’s] life is his work, his family, and his Conservative Party,” Wolkoff said.
Regarding his decision not to meet with prosecutors, he exclaimed: “I have nothing to hide.”
The jury also heard from John Ruocco, who was the president and CEO of Interceptor Ignition, which had dealings with Melius, the Oheka Castle owner who survived a botched assassination attempt two years ago.
Ruocco testified that Walsh attended a shareholder’s meeting on Feb. 21, 2014 at 11 a.m. in Shirley. He noted that Walsh had no business dealings and didn’t speak during the two-hour meeting.
Prosecutors also produced evidence allegedly showing Walsh made reservations to travel to Connecticut by using the Cross Sound Ferry on four occasions between 2011 and 2014. One package also included a bus transfer to Mohegan Sun casino, according to testimony.
The government also claimed Walsh went shopping at three stores—Nike, Reebok and Neiman Marcus—on June 16, 2012, and used his American Express card to pay for a woman’s blouse at one store and a “Yankees trainer” double extra-large shirt at another.
The defense got one witness to testify that there’s no way of knowing that it was Walsh who actually purchased the blouse.
The day ended with testimony from Senft, who was endorsed by the Town of Islip Conservative Party last year when he campaigned for a county judge seat. Senft had originally planned to run for state senate, but dropped out due to a toxic dumping scandal that enveloped the town. At the time, Senft was the town board’s park liaison.
Senft also said he found five dates in his Google calendar in which he attended Conservative Party events with Walsh.
Senft’s testimony continues Monday when the trial resumes. The prosecution plans to produce photos from various political events Walsh and Senft attended.