Former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto pleaded guilty to a pair of corruption charges in Nassau County Court Friday morning, July 26.
The 70-year-old former town head copped to a felony charge of corrupt use of position or authority, as well as a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct, in a deal that ensured he will not see the inside of a jail cell for either offense.
The state charges against Venditto stemmed from a probe by Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas that uncovered evidence that he and the late town Planning and Development Commissioner Frederick Ippolito used their public offices to manipulate real estate dealings and zoning amendments in a way meant to benefit Ippolito personally.
“I advocated for and voted for the approval of a rezoning application to permit the construction of a senior citizens housing complex on the site referred to as Cantiague Commons,” Venditto said in a statement he read in court. “During that period of time, I was aware that Frederick Ippolito had a financial interest in the rezoning application’s approval. Notwithstanding Mr. Ippolito’s financial interest, I allowed him to supervise the Cantiague Commons rezoning application on the town’s behalf, which created a conflict of interest.”
Venditto also told the court he exercised his power to hire a part-time employee, identified in the indictment as “Individual B,” to a position in the town’s parks department with an inflated salary to benefit Ippolito’s relationship with the individual’s mother. Ippolito died in prison two years ago while serving time for tax evasion.
The ex-supervisor pleaded not guilty to 10 state charges while being arraigned in July 2017, six months after stepping down from his position amid federal corruption charges for which he was ultimately acquitted.
Several former town officials, including former town parks commissioner Frank Nocerino and GOP leader Richard Porcelli, who also served as Venditto’s campaign manager, will stand trial on Sept. 26 after pleading not guilty to charges stemming from Singas’ probe.
“Our investigation uncovered pervasive corruption in the Town of Oyster Bay where the powerful and connected used the government to benefit themselves at the expense of the taxpayers they were sworn to serve,” Singas said. “This felony plea by former town Supervisor Venditto sends a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated in Nassau County and my office will pursue these cases aggressively without fear or favor.”
The Massapequa resident’s legal council released a statement saying their client took the plea deal to resolve the situation quickly, and has never been found to have used his old office for personal gain.
Had Venditto not taken the plea deal from the state and been convicted on both counts, he could have faced as many as four years in prison.
Current Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino expressed the belief that his predecessor’s admission represented an important step forward for the town, whose residents have seen a precession of officials brought up on similar charges.
“This marks the end of a dark chapter in the town’s history which is associated with the past,” Saladino said in an official statement. “With our zero tolerance for corruption policy, we are moving Oyster Bay forward to make sure the taxpayers are protected.”
Additional reporting by Frank Rizzo