The man who had owned and managed an Old Bethpage paving company that conducted public contracts worth millions of dollars pleaded guilty on Thursday to a corruption charge following his 2017 indictment along with a handful of others with government connections in Oyster Bay
Elia “Aly” Lizza, who had been president of Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc., admitted to the Nassau County Court a second-degree bribery charge, a felony.
The 72-year-old Oyster Bay Cove resident said he paid approximately $ 1.6 million in bribes to the late Oyster Bay Commissioner of Planning and Development Frederick Ippolito.
The judge of the Supreme Court of the State, Charles Wood, promised to give Lizza a “non-prison provision” under a plea agreement that also implies an agreement to withdraw charges against Lizza’s wife in the husband’s sentence in April.
Marisa Lizza had faced the same 40 criminal charges as her husband, which included 19 bribery charges for serious crimes, along with felony charges of rewarding official misconduct and defrauding the government, and a misdemeanor conspiracy charge.
In addition, a formal indictment accused his paving company of 13 criminal charges, including bribery.
Attorney Stephen Scaring pleaded guilty on Thursday on behalf of the company to the same bribe charge in second grade. Under the general agreement, the Lizzas will also lose $ 350,000 as a fine.
Both the husband and the wife had faced up to five to 15 years in prison if they were convicted of the highest charge against them, Nassau prosecutors said previously.
“Sir. Lizza today accepted the responsibility of giving money to a public official. The reasons for the payments were extraordinarily complicated and largely consistent with his innocence,” said husband’s lawyer, John Carman, in a statement.
The Garden City attorney added that “the judge’s willingness to impose a sentence without jail and the district attorney’s agreement to dismiss the charge against his wife Marisa made it impossible for him to take the risk of a trial.”
Carman said after the court that the accusation formally ended the company’s ability to conduct business and the company had to be dissolved.
Prosecutor Jesse Aviram told the judge on Thursday that his office was seeking a prison sentence of 1 to 3 years for Elia “Aly” Lizza, but would consent to the dismissal of the charges against Marisa Lizza, 64, for the sentence from her husband, since it was understood that the husband would “exculpate his wife.”
Upon pleading guilty, the husband told the judge that he moved money from a corporate bank account to a personal account and asked his wife to send checks to Ippolito, but she “did not know the purpose of these payments.”
Nassau prosecutors alleged that the Lizzas paid Ippolito, who died in June 2017 while serving a federal tax evasion sentence, $ 1.6 million in bribes for negotiating advance payments that exceed $ 20 million to his company from a developer of housing projects
Prosecutors said that Ippolito, at the same time, also controlled the supervision of the rezoning that would allow the construction. The project was a housing complex for people over $ 150 million known as Cantiague Commons, which was never built.
The couple’s accusation in June 2017 followed a 14-month investigation that included extensive use of wiretapping and what Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas called an “interconnected network of public corruption” in the government of Oyster Bay
The city’s former supervisor, John Venditto, also among the defendants, pleaded guilty in July to an agreement that stripped him of his legal license and made him a criminal, but also did not include jail time.
Venditto admitted in part that he defended and voted for the approval of the rezoning request to allow the request, although he knew that Ippolito, as city commissioner, also had a financial interest in the agreement.
The Lizzas paving company earned about $ 100 million in Nassau County public tender contracts from 2002 to 2015, and the couple donated nearly $ 1 million in political donations to Nassau leaders and party committees during that same time, Newsday reported earlier.
The company’s last contract with the people of Oyster Bay for road works was worth $ 22.1 million and expired in 2016.
Marc Gann, lawyer for Marisa Lizza, said Thursday that his client “was not involved in anything that was really happening in the city of Oyster Bay.”
He added: “We recognize that she signed these checks payable to Fred Ippolito, but beyond that … she really did not participate in any conversation, communication or anything that took place.”
Prosecutors did not comment immediately.