MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced today that the owner of a prominent Long Island paving company has pleaded guilty to bribing an Oyster Bay commissioner to help facilitate the construction of the Cantiague Commons senior housing development.
Elia “Aly” Lizza, 72, of Oyster Bay Cove, pleaded guilty today before Judge Charles Wood to one count of Bribery in the Second Degree (a C felony). The defendant is due back in court on April 16. The NCDA has recommended a sentence of one to three years in prison.
Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving, Inc. – a defunct paving company owned by Elia Lizza – also pleaded guilty to one count of Bribery in the Second Degree (a C felony).
In addition to his guilty plea, Elia Lizza will also pay $350,000 to settle a civil forfeiture action brought against him by the NCDA’s Civil Forfeiture Bureau.
The guilty plea entered today by Elia Lizza represents a plea to the indictment. The District Attorney’s Office conditioned any plea offer upon a sentence that included a period of incarceration, however, the defendant reached an agreement directly with the court to plead to the indictment in exchange for a commitment from Judge Wood, over NCDA’s objection, that he would serve no jail time.
The original indictment charged the defendants with more than two hundred counts. Upon the death of Frederick Ippolito after the indictment, all but 40 counts were dismissed as having been abated by Ippolito’s death. The defendant was allowed to plead to one count-the highest count- Bribery in the Second Degree 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,” DA 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.”
DA Singas said that 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.
Elia Lizza made these payments to Ippolito for his role in negotiating anticipated payments in excess of $20 million dollars to Elia Lizza 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.
To be developed, 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.
To further facilitate the Cantiague Commons deal, Ippolito negotiated the sale of 50 Engel Street to the Town of Oyster Bay.
Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving, Inc., operated an asphalt plant at 50 Engel Street in Hicksville, near the proposed Cantiague Commons project. The town would not approve the re-zoning application for Cantiague Commons given the proximity to the asphalt plant.
Ippolito allegedly used town employees and resources to draft agreements among Elia Lizza and other family members. Ippolito and Venditto advocated to the town board on behalf of Elia Lizza in connection with the subject application and concealed Ippolito’s financial interest in the Cantiague Commons project.
On December 18, 2012, the town board conditionally granted the rezoning application.
According to the indictment, Ippolito gave his recommendation to the Board to approve the rezoning of the property on West John Street in Hicksville while failing to disclose to the Board his financial interest in Cantiague Commons. Ippolito allegedly worked closely with Lizza family members and their contractors to develop Cantiague Commons in order to ensure that Elia Lizza received in excess of $20 million dollars.
Ippolito failed to report the payments from the Lizza family, as well as additional payments which pre-dated his TOB employment, to the Internal Revenue Service, and he was indicted in March 2015.
Once Ippolito was indicted by a federal grand jury, Elia Lizza and Ippolito ceased 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.
According to the indictment, the payments to Ippolito originated from a Carlo Lizza & Sons bank account and were then sent through the personal checking account of Elia and Marisa Lizza before they were made to Ippolito.
Ippolito pleaded guilty on January 26, 2016, to one count of Tax Evasion in federal court for tax year 2008 and was sentenced to 27 months’ imprisonment on September 28, 2016.
Supervisor Venditto pleaded guilty to Corrupt Use of Position or Authority (an E felony) and Official Misconduct (an A misdemeanor) in July 2019.
The cases against Antetomaso and Marisa Lizza remain open. Ippolito passed away in June 2017 before he was arraigned on grand jury indictment charges.
This investigation and prosecution was the result of the joint efforts of several members of DA Singas’ Public Corruption Bureau, including lead prosecutor and Senior Investigative Counsel, Jesse Aviram, Detective Investigator Gavin Shea, Executive Assistant District Attorney Charles Testagrossa, Bureau Chief Christine Maloney, Deputy Bureau Chief Robert Cavallo, and Counsel to the Investigations Division Stuart Levy as well as Deputy Chief Dan Bresnahan and Senior Appellate Attorney Hilda Mortensen. Chief Rebecca Winer and Deputy Chief Joseph Dompkowski of DA Singas’ Civil Forfeiture Bureau assisted in obtaining the $350,000 from the civil forfeiture action.
Elia Lizza is represented by John Carman, Esq., Marisa Lizza is represented by Marc Gann, Esq. Carlo Lizza and Sons Paving, Inc. is represented by Stephen Scaring and Frank Antetomaso is represented by Joseph Conway, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.