Three Long Island town officials have been indicted on misconduct charges, accused of plotting to hire and then fire a town employee, authorities say.
Former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, 68; former Parks Commissioner Frank Nocerino, 65; and Richard Porcelli, 70, the deputy executive leader of the North Massapequa Republican Club, were arrested Thursday in the corruption investigation by the Nassau County District Attorney's office.
Four other officials and accomplices were also indicted by the grand jury.
Prosecutors say Venditto ordered Nocerino to hire a man to work in the parks department at the behest of Frederick Ippolito, Oyster Bay's Commissioner of Planning Development. Ippolito had been convicted on federal tax evasion charges but "continued to exercise influence over town matters," said D.A. Madeline Singas.
That employee was hired at a salary more than double what the position was supposed to pay -- even though the town was in the midst of a hiring freeze and was even talking about layoffs because of a financial crisis, according to prosecutors. The employee was told not to discuss his terms of employment.
"In the time that Oyster Bay was in hole for close to $900 million, how could they be so reckless with taxpayer dollars?" Singas said.
Then, months later, Ippolito directed that the employee be fired.
Venditto and his close associate, Porcelli, agreed to fire the employee and several others along with him so it wouldn't look suspicious, prosecutors allege.
The defendants were part of several other schemes including bribery, fraud and rewarding official misconduct, including a proposal to build a $150 million senior housing complex in Hicksville that would net millions of dollars to some of the defendants, Singas said.
Venditto, Porcelli and Nocerino pleaded not guilty in court Thursday and released on their own recognizance. They're due back in court on September 26.
If convicted, they could face anywhere from one to 15 years in prison.
Their attorneys told reporters outside court that each of them plans to fight the charges.