New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that three former officials of the Orange County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), who pleaded guilty in June to corruption charges, including hiding self-dealing and concealing conflicts of interest, were sentenced today to pay more than $1 million in restitution.
Comptroller DiNapoli and D.A. Hoovler today also released a report detailing the defendants’ crimes and how the systemic failures and neglect of duty by the IDA board and its officials enabled their scheme.
“Cozzolino, Villasuso and Diana betrayed their duty to the public in order to enrich themselves through a web of conflicts of interest, false statements and pay-offs,” said DiNapoli. “Making matters worse, their scheme was enabled by a complacent board, which neglected its fiduciary duty and allowed Cozzolino to assume near unfettered control of the program. It is because of the joint work of our partnership with Orange County District Attorney Hoovler and the New Windsor Police that we were able to bring their crimes to light and recover over $1 million.”
“As important as it is to prosecute those who committed crimes at the IDA, it is equally important that safeguards be put in place to ensure that public monies are not squandered in the future,” said District Attorney Hoovler. “I thank State Comptroller DiNapoli for all the work his office did in this investigation, and for working with us on this report. I hope this report will be used not only as a record of the lax oversight that existed at the Orange County IDA, but as a roadmap as to how procedures can be strengthened at the Orange County IDA and at IDAs and similar institutions throughout New York State.”
The investigation revealed that former IDA Managing Director Vincent Cozzolino entered into a series of contracts (funneled through his company, Galileo Technology Group) with the IDA with vague and seemingly overlapping responsibilities affording him complete control of the Accelerator Program.
To further cement his power and despite blatant conflicts of interest, former CEO Laurie Villasuso and former board member and Accelerator Committee Chair Edward Diana, were “hired” by Cozzolino’s private company, which received millions in payment from the IDA. Villasuso and Diana were the two IDA officials primarily charged with overseeing the Accelerator program. Diana admitted to receiving $90,000 in payments from Cozzolino’s firm for merely attending 20 meetings and “a couple” of phone calls.
The investigation also found that the IDA’s board abdicated its fiduciary duty and acted as a mere rubber stamp for Cozzolino which he exploited for his personal gain and the enrichment of his co-conspirators. The IDA board failed to review contracts, invoices or engage in any meaningful oversight which may have exposed the malfeasance.
Comptroller DiNapoli and District Attorney Hoovler issued a number of recommendations in the report for the new board to implement and to ensure effective review and to promote enhanced IDA governance.
Cozzolino, Villasuso and Diana were sentenced today in front of Judge Robert Prisco in Orange County Court.
Cozzolino was sentenced to five years probation and today paid $1 million in restitution for his conviction of Corrupting the Government in the third degree, a class D felony. Villasuso today paid $175,000 in restitution for her conviction of Corrupting the Government in the fourth degree, a class E felony. Diana was sentenced upon his conviction of two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the second degree and one count of Engaging Prohibited Conflict of Interest, both class A misdemeanors. The former county executive today paid full restitution of $90,000.
The investigation was conducted in partnership between the Office of the State Comptroller’s Division of Investigations, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Town of New Windsor Police Department.
Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at [email protected], or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 8th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.