Former County Executive From Hudson Valley, 2 Others Sentenced
As part of their plea deal, all three agreed to pay over $1 million.
On Friday, 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, 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.
In June, Edward Diana, 72, of Wallkill, a former member of the IDA’s Board of Directors, and a former County Executive of Orange County, pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing, a felony and committing a prohibited conflict of interest.
Former IDA Managing Director Vincent Cozzolino, 62, of Gardiner, pleaded guilty to corrupting the government, a felony. The IDA’s former Chief Executive Officer, Laurie Villasuso, 41, of Newburgh, also pleaded guilty to corrupting the government, a felony.
“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,” DiNapoli said. “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.”
Cozzolino was sentenced to five years probation and today paid $1 million in restitution. On Friday, Villasuso today paid $175,000 in restitution. Diana, the former county executive, paid full restitution of $90,000.
At the time that they pleaded guilty, Cozzolino and Villasuso each admitted that they had acted in concert with each other in a scheme to defraud the IDA through payments that the IDA made to Cozzolino’s company, Galileo Technologies Group, Inc. Villasuso admitted that she had been employed by both the IDA and Galileo Technologies Group, Inc. even as she signed contracts on behalf of the IDA with that corporation. Diana admitted being employed by Galileo Technologies Group, Inc. while he was an IDA Board Member, and filing a false document to conceal that employment. As a member of the IDA’s Board of Directors, Diana voted on the contracts that the IDA had with Galileo Technologies Group, Inc., and chaired the committee which dealt most directly with that company.
“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,” Hoovler said. “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.”
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:
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.