A former top elected official on Long Island will spend time behind bars after admitting to accepting a cash payment from a contractor and then attempting to cover it up amidst a federal probe, authorities announced.
Hicksville resident Richard “Rob” Walker, age 43, the former Chief Deputy County Executive under former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2019 to obstruction of justice following his attempted cover-up.
In addition to his prison sentence, Walker was also ordered to pay a $5,000 forfeiture, was fined $5,500, and must perform 2,000 hours of community service.
US Attorney Breon Peace said that in 2014, Walker, who was then the Chief Deputy Nassau County Executive, accepted a $5,000 cash payment from a contractor who was performing work on a contract for the county.
In 2017, Walker learned that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI had opened a grand jury investigation of potential corruption in Nassau County government, including the circumstances surrounding the $5,000 payment made by the contractor.
According to Peace, Walker spoke to the contractor on several occasions and attempted to persuade him to conceal the existence of the $5,000 payment from the grand jury, or to provide a false explanation to the grand jury concerning the transaction, including calling it the repayment of a loan.
Walker arranged to meet the contractor in a Hicksville park in Nassau County, at which point he handed the contractor an envelope with $5,000 inside “in an effort to make it appear as if the payment Walker accepted ‘never happened.’”
Later, when he was interviewed by the FBI concerning the payment, Walker denied ever having received any cash payments from the contractor.
Prosecutors said that Walker was also caught on recordings repeatedly claiming that the payment did not have to be disclosed to the grand jury if he returned it to the contractor.
Peace said that on one occasion, Walker said, “you (the contractor) only borrowed it and I gave it back to you…there was never a quid pro quo,” and if he returned the money, “it doesn’t exist…wouldn’t you rather it not existing?”
In another recorded conversation, Walker untruthfully stated, “just be honest. I borrowed the money from you. I gave it back to you…My mother-in-law was sick…it’s over.” During the exchange, which was recorded by law enforcement, Walker stated, “it (the money) doesn’t exist. That’s it.” When the contractor asked if he is “not saying a word (to the grand jury)?” Walker confirmed, “nope, doesn’t exist.”
“While occupying an important position of public trust, Walker accepted illicit payments from a contractor, encouraged the contractor to commit perjury before a federal grand jury, and lied to the FBI to cover up his crimes,” Peace said.
“This Office will prosecute corrupt officials like Walker who seek to obstruct justice and abuse the public trust.”
Walker served as the top deputy to Mangano, a Republican who was convicted of a kickback scheme in which his indicted restaurateur co-conspirator allegedly gave Mangano’s wife a job in exchange for county contracts.
Walker left his county job when Mangano's term ended in 2017 and he declined to seek a third term in office.
“Public officials have a great responsibility to uphold the public’s trust and make legal and ethical decisions that serve to benefit their communities,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll stated. “Rob Walker did just the opposite when he accepted illicit payments from a contractor working for Nassau County and later attempted to cover his tracks and change his story once he realized the FBI was onto him.
“As we’ve said in the past, there’s no way to undo what’s already been done—a lesson that’s surely been reinforced today.”
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