On Monday, Oct. 15, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced that criminal charges have been filed against four current or former Town of North Hempstead employees as the result of a 16-month probe into allegations of corruption within the town's building department. The grand jury indictment of two employees, along with the criminal complaints filed against two others, outline charges of grand larceny, official misconduct, accepting of unlawful gratuities and bribe receiving.
Those charged Monday include the former building commissioner David Wasserman, former deputy commissioner John Madden, former plans examiner Andrew Acierno and building inspector Thomas McDonough. Indicted in August was former plumbing inspector Joseph Lomonaco.
"An investigation of this size and scope into a building department is unprecedented and the results are alarming," said District Attorney Rice. "We look forward to holding these individuals accountable and to restoring the trust constituents have a right to have in their local governments."
David Wasserman, 48, of Roslyn Heights, the head of the department from May 2000 to January 2006, who also served as a consultant to the town after his departure and was the commissioner of the Planning & Economic Development Commissioner, as well as the current chairman of the Community Development Agency, faces a 29-count indictment that alleges the defendant misrepresented and covered up a private architectural practice while he was commissioner of the department, in violation of the town's code of ethics and New York State law. The indictment also alleges that the defendant failed to disclose, as required by the town, his outside earnings on yearly financial disclosure forms and forged and altered town records to conceal the outside business. In addition, the indictment alleges that the defendant received unlawful gratuities from a local gym immediately after approving its construction.
In addition to the severe 'conflict of interest' violations, his failure to disclose accurate personal financial information to the town, and his accepting of unlawful gratuities, Mr. Wasserman has also been indicted for failing to report more than $100,000 of income on his personal income tax filings from the years 2003, 2004, and 2005, Rice stated.
The indictment charges Mr. Wasserman with felony counts of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Defrauding the Government, Forgery in the Second Degree (2 counts), Criminal Possession of a Forgery Device (2 counts), Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (11 counts), and Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. Mr. Wasserman is also facing misdemeanor charges of Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree (10 counts) and Receiving Unlawful Gratuities.
Mr. Wasserman faces a maximum of seven years in prison if convicted of the top charge. Mr. Wasserman was placed under arrest on Oct. 15 by district attorney investigators. He was arraigned on the indictment by Nassau County Court Judge David Sullivan, who set bail on the defendant in the amount of $20,000 bond or $10,000 cash. He is due back in court Nov. 5.
Joseph Madden, 39, the deputy building commissioner from 1999 to March 2006, has been charged with accepting cash bribes totaling more than $10,000 in exchange for inspection certifications and building plan approval.
The charges against Madden include felony counts of Bribe Receiving in the Third Degree (2 counts) and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (8 counts). The defendant has also been charged with Receiving Unlawful Gratuities, a misdemeanor.
Mr. Madden faces a maximum of seven years in prison if convicted of the top charge. Mr. Madden was placed under arrest Oct. 15 by district attorney investigators. Mr. Madden was arraigned in First District Court, Hempstead. His bail was set at $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash and he was ordered to return to court October 17.
Andrew Acierno, 53, of Westbury, a former plans examiner from 2004 to 2006, faces a criminal complaint that includes 'conflict of interest' violations, filing false financial disclosure documents, illegally drafting architectural plans, and substantially underreporting his personal income to the State of New York. The indictment alleges that during his time as a plans examiner within the building department, Mr. Acierno was simultaneously conducting a lucrative side business drawing plans, some of which were filed with the Town of North Hempstead Building Department. Because the defendant is a not an architect and was aware that conducting business within the Town while employed by the Town was a conflict of interest, Mr. Acierno affixed the title block of a well-known architect to at least two sets of his plans, Rice stated. The indictment also alleges that during 2004, 2005 and 2006, Mr. Acierno failed to disclose this outside income to the Town on his yearly financial disclosure document. Additionally, Mr. Acierno is alleged to have underreported $219,020 of yearly income to the State of New York for those same years.
The complaint against Mr. Acierno charges the defendant with felony counts of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Forgery in the Second Degree (2 counts), Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (7 counts), Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (2 counts), Filing a False Return (3 counts), and Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree. Mr. Acierno is also facing misdemeanor charges of Unauthorized Practice of a Profession and Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree (2 counts).
Mr. Acierno faces a maximum of seven years in prison if convicted of the top charge. Mr. Acierno was placed under arrest Oct. 15 by district attorney investigators. Mr. Acierno was arraigned in First District Court, Hempstead. His bail status, $25,000, was continued and he was ordered to return to court Oct. 17.
Thomas McDonough, 48, of Port Washington, a current building inspector, faces a 4-count indictment that includes allegations of bribery and grand larceny by extortion. He is alleged to have refused to inspect a drywell in a home unless the homeowner purchased political fundraiser tickets he was selling, totaling $900.
The indictment of Mr. McDonough includes felony charges of Grand Larceny in Second Degree and Bribe Receiving in the Third Degree. He is also facing misdemeanor charges of Coercion in the Second Degree and Official Misconduct.
Mr. McDonough faces a maximum of seven years in prison if convicted of the top charge. Mr. McDonough was placed under arrest Oct. 15 by district attorney investigators. He was arraigned on the indictment by Nassau County Judge David Sullivan, who set bail on the defendant in the amount of $5,000 bond or $2,500 cash. He is due back in court Nov. 5.
Joseph Lomonaco, 56, of New Hyde Park, a former plumbing inspector and supervisor of Maccarone Plumbing in Glen Cove, was indicted in August on allegations of lying on the Town's financial disclosure form by omitting the conflict of interest in his outside income earned as a plumbing supervisor. Mr. Lomonaco was also indicted for filing a permit application on his own home years after he completed the work.
Mr. Lomonaco was indicted on two felony counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. He faces a maximum of four years in prison if convicted of either charge. Mr. Lomonaco is due back in court Oct. 18.
Rice thanked the administration of the Town of North Hempstead for their cooperation during the investigation.
"We will work closely with each of the three towns in Nassau County to ensure that we can improve the transparency in the process and uncover any additional fraud that so rapidly erodes the concept of fairness and of the public trust," said Rice.
Deputy Chief of the DA's Public Corruption Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Karen Bennett is handling the case for the district attorney's office. Rice also thanked District Attorney Chief Investigator Charles Ribando, Deputy Chief Investigator Steven Dato, and Investigators Daniel Rizzo, Bobby McHugh, Josh Genn, Edward Maley, Kathy Roberts, Charles Fransen, and Nick Pompei, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York State Tax Department for their hard work and dedication to the case. The district attorney gave special thanks to two bureau chiefs, ADA Peter Weinstein and ADA Diane Peress, for their assistance in this investigation.
Mr. Wasserman is being represented by Michael Ross, Esq., of Manhattan. Mr. Madden is being represented by Michael Farkas, Esq., of Manhattan. Mr. Acierno is being represented by Steve Pinzino, Esq., of Manhasset. Mr. McDonough is being represented by Michael Rosen, Esq., of Manhattan. Mr. Lomonaco is being represented by Michael Dergerabedian, Esq., of Rockville Centre.
The charges against the defendants are accusations and they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.