7 Arrested in Oyster Bay Corruption Probe, DA Says

Oyster Bay
From left to right: Former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, former Oyster Bay Town Public Works Commissioner Frank Antetomaso and Richard Porcelli, deputy executive leader of the North Massapequa Republican Club.

One current and three ex-Oyster Bay town officials, a Republican Party club leader and the co-owners of paving company were arrested Thursday on three indictments alleging corruption schemes, Nassau County prosecutors said.

Former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, who previously pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges, was indicted in two of the cases—one an alleged bribery scheme and the other in which authorities said he was involved in the illegal hiring and firing of a town employee. In the third case, the former town public works commissioner was accused of using town resources to do a favor for a friend.

“Government officials should never use public resources to do favors for friends and cronies,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.

Venditto, 72, of Massapequa, was charged with conspiracy and corrupt use of position or authority in the employment case. He was charged with defrauding the government, official misconduct and conspiracy in the bribery case.

In the hiring case, prosecutors said Venditto directed former town Parks Commissioner Frank Nocerino to hire an individual at the behest of Frederick Ippolito, the former town planning commissioner from Syosset who died in prison this year at age 78 after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion. The employee, who paid more than twice the rate of others in his position, was hired while the town was considering layoffs due to a financial crisis, authorities noted.

Later, Ippolito—who was already convicted at the time—ordered the employee be fired, according to investigators. Venditto and Richard Porcelli, deputy executive leader of the North Massapequa Republican Club, agreed to fire the employee, but also fired others to divert attention from the firing, prosecutors said.

Nocerino, 65, of Massapequa, and 70-year-old Porcelli of Ronkonkoma, were each charged with official misconduct. Porcelli was also charged with conspiracy.

In the bribery case, prosecutors said Elia Lizza, 69, of Oyster Bay Cove, and his 61-year-old wife, Marisa Lizza, who own Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving, Inc., paid Ippolito about $1.6 million for helping Elia get $20 million from the developer of Cantiague Commons, a $150 million proposed senior housing complex, while Ippolito helped get the land it was to be built on rezoned from industrial to residential use.

Frank Antetomaso, a former Town of Oyster Bay Commissioner of Public Works and principal at engineering firm Sidney Bowne that was working on the Cantiague Commons project, allegedly passed messages between Ippolito and Elia Lizza and helped cover up the Ippolito’s financial interest in the project, authorities said.

Elia, Marisa and their company were all charged bribery, rewarding official misconduct, defrauding the government and conspiracy. Antetomaso, 77, of Massapequa, was charged with conspiracy.

In the third case, prosecutors said Antetomaso called his nephew, 50-year-old Salvatore Cecere of West Sayville, a current Oyster Bay town highway maintenance supervisor, and asked him to remove a dead tree and replace the sidewalk in front of the North Massapequa home of Antetomaso’s friend. The homeowner was not billed for the work, as is required by law, authorities said. Antetomaso and Cecere were charged with official misconduct and theft of services.

After the arrests were announced, Venditto’s successor, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, said he was cancelling all contracts with Antetomaso’s firm, Sidney Bowne, and banning them from future town work.

“Venditto and his inner circle have become national poster boys for public corruption, mismanagement and malfeasance,” Saladino said. “They have embarrassed the residents and hardworking men and women of Oyster Bay town government.”

All pleaded not guilty, were released without bail and are due back in court Sept. 26. Elia and Marisa Lizza face up to five to 15 years in prison, if convicted. Antetomaso, Cecere, Porcelli and Nocerino face up to a year in jail, if convicted.

Venditto faces up to four years in prison, if convicted. He is due back in federal court on the other charges—a bribery case in which his co-defendant is Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano—on Nov. 13.