The former owner of a prominent Long Island paving company has admitted to bribing an elected official to ascertain a contract, the District Attorney announced.
Oyster Bay Cove resident Elia “Aly” Lizza, 72, pleaded guilty to bribing an Oyster Bay commissioner to help facilitate the construction of the Cantiague Commons senior housing development.
In Nassau County Court, Lizza pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree bribery, a felony. When he is sentenced on Thursday, April 16, District Attorney Madeline Singas said that Lizza is expected to receive a term of between one and three years in prison.
The now-defunct company Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving, Inc. owned by Lizza also pleaded guilty to one count of bribery, Singas noted. As part of the guilty pleas, Lizza agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a civil action brought against him by the DA’s office.
According to the indictment, Elia Lizza - President of Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving, Inc, - and his wife, Marisa Lizza, 64, wrote approximately $1.6 million worth of checks from 2009 to 2016 from personal accounts to Frederick Ippolito, who was serving as Commissioner of Planning and Development for the Town of Oyster Bay.
Lizza made these payments to Ippolito for his role in negotiating anticipated payments in excess of $20 million from the developer of Cantiague Commons – a $150 million residential housing complex for seniors – while Ippolito was simultaneously controlling the oversight of the developer’s rezoning application and site plan approval.
Singas said that Cantiague Commons needed the approval of the Town of Oyster Bay Town Board to grant an application to rezone the property, which was zoned for light industrial, for residential use. As the Commissioner of Planning and Development, Ippolito had substantial control and influence over any potential real estate developments within the town.
Ippolito allegedly used town employees and resources to draft agreements among Lizza and other family members. Ippolito and a co-conspirator advocated to the town board on behalf of Lizza in connection with the subject application and concealed Ippolito’s financial interest in the Cantiague Commons project.
Once Ippolito was indicted by a federal grand jury, Lizza and Ippolito stopped communicating directly. Frank Antetomaso – a former Town of Oyster Bay official and principal of engineering firm Sidney Bowne that was working on the Cantiague Commons project – allegedly passed messages between Ippolito and Elia Lizza.
The original indictment charged the defendants with more than two hundred counts. Upon the death of Ippolito after the indictment, all but 40 counts were dismissed as having been abated by Ippolito’s death, Singas said. Lizza was allowed to plead to the highest count - second-degree bribery “in the interest of judicial economy.”
“The people of Nassau County deserve a government free from corruption and special treatment, and this case exposed a shocking betrayal of the public trust at the highest levels of Oyster Bay’s leadership,” Singas said.
“This complex and lengthy investigation uncovered a massive bribery scheme that laid bare how Town government worked for the rich and politically connected and left hardworking taxpayers behind. Thanks to our prosecutors, this crooked enterprise is out of business, and Aly Lizza and former Supervisor John Venditto are convicted felons.”
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