Elia “Aly” Lizza, 72, of Oyster Bay Cove, pleaded guilty on Jan. 16 before Judge Charles Wood to one count of second-degree bribery (a C felony). He is due back in court on April 16. The Nassau County District Attorney has recommended a sentence of one to three years in prison.
Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving, Inc., a defunct paving company owned by Lizza, also pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree bribery (a C felony).
In addition to his guilty plea, 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 by 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 Wood, over NCDA’s objection, that he would serve no jail time.
The original indictment charged the defendants with more than 200 counts. Upon the death of Frederick Ippolito after the indictment, all but 40 counts were dismissed as having been abated by Ippolito’s death. Lizza was allowed to plead to one count of second-degree bribery in the interest of judicial economy.
District Attorney Madeline Singas said that Lizza and his wife, Marisa Lizza, 64, wrote approximately $1.6 million worth of checks from 2009 to 2016 from personal accounts to 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 to 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 and 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 St. in Hicksville to the Town of Oyster Bay. Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving, Inc., operated an asphalt plant at that address, 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 Lizza and other family members. Ippolito and former Town Supervisor John Venditto 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. The board conditionally granted the rezoning application on Dec. 18, 2012.
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 his financial interest in Cantiague Commons. Ippolito allegedly worked closely with Lizza family members and their contractors to develop the commons in order to ensure that Lizza received in excess of $20 million.
Ippolito failed to report the payments from the Lizza family, as well as additional payments which pre-dated his town employment, to the Internal Revenue Service, and he was indicted in March, 2015. Once he was indicted by a federal grand jury, he and Lizza ceased communicating directly. Frank Antetomaso, a former town official and principal of engineering firm Sidney Bowne that was working on the Cantiague Commons project, allegedly passed messages between the two.
The indictment states that 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 Jan. 26, 2016, to one count of tax evasion in federal court for tax year 2008 and was sentenced to 27 months’ imprisonment on Sept. 28 of that year. 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 died in June, 2017 before he was arraigned on grand jury indictment charges.