Hempstead Town Deputy Building Commissioner John Novello was arraigned on a grand jury indictment last Thursday for allegedly stealing more than $59,000 from the Cedarhurst Republican Committee.
The district attorney’s office said that Novello, 51, of Hewlett Harbor, is accused of spending money he took from the committee on his home mortgage, a winery trip, luxury candies, personal entertainment and other personal expenses.
Novello was indicted on 11 counts, including grand larceny. He pleaded not guilty.
He also serves as the executive leader of the Cedarhurst Republican Committee.
“This defendant allegedly funded his luxurious lifestyle with contributions that donors made to support the Cedarhurst GOP and its candidates,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “These allegations are an outrageous betrayal of trust by a public official and party leader, and my office is committed to seeking justice.”
Novello was charged with second-degree grand larceny, four counts of third-degree grand larceny, two counts of petit larceny and four counts of a violation of election law.
The defendant was released on “his own recognizance” on bail and is due back in court Sept. 26. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Singas said that from January 2016 to August 2019, Novello allegedly withdrew more than $20,000 in cash from the committee’s campaign bank account for personal use.
The defendant allegedly withdrew cash from the account more than 40 times in amounts of up to $2,000. Novello, the only signatory on the committee’s account, allegedly deposited some of the cash into his personal and business bank accounts, Singas’ office said.
Additionally, Novello allegedly stole more than $37,000 from donations to the committee’s annual golf tournament fundraiser and the Mayor’s Cup in 2018 and 2019.
Novello allegedly transferred a total of more than $22,000 from the 2018 Mayor’s Cup donations and more than $15,000 from the 2019 Mayor’s Cup donations to personal and business bank accounts.
In total, Singas’ office said that Novello allegedly stole more than $59,000 from the Cedarhurst Republican Committee.
Following an investigation, the defendant was arrested Sept. 5 by investigators from Singas’ office. Her office said the investigation will continue.
Senior Assistant District Attorneys Joe Gim and Sarah Nadeau-Balducci, who are part of Singas’ public corruption bureau, are prosecuting the case. The defendant is represented by Jerald S. Carter.
Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, the first Democratic supervisor for the town in over 100 years, said in a statement that the indictment served as “another example of the culture of corruption that has been festering in Town Hall for over a century under one-party rule” and is calling for Novello’s resignation.
“In addition to these charges, Mr. Novello has been drawing multiple taxpayer salaries and has inherent and undeniable conflicts of interests in his current Town role,” Gillen said
Gillen said these conflicts of interests included operating an architectural drafting firm that does business with Hempstead, serving as the executive leader of the Cedarhurst Republican Club and serving as chief of staff until June to Assemblywoman Missy Miller (R-Atlantic Beach).
“For all of these reasons, Mr. Novello should resign from his position so that residents can feel safe knowing that their interests are being best served,” Gillen said.
Gillen has recently called for a state audit into the Hempstead Building Department with state Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) to find out how the agency was assessing damages in the town after Hurricane Sandy.
Gillen said at an August news conference that allegations she has heard about the Building Department include delaying the issuing of select building permits, “looking the other way” on certain code violations and expediting permits for “favored” homeowners and businesses.
“Despite being stymied by the Town Board for over a year into investigating the Building Department, I have still been successful in exposing the culture of corruption that exists in Town Hall and will continue cooperating with the district attorney’s office to ensure that the full mess in this department and in our town is cleaned up,” Gillen said.
According to Gillen spokesman Michael Fricchione, Novello’s fate at the town is up to the Town Board.
In a statement, the Town Board said it has reached out to the town attorney’s office and strongly recommended that Mr. Novello be reassigned to a position that does not have any managerial responsibilities in relation to the Building Department or other employees.
The board said it will take action regarding Novello’s status after more is revealed in court.
“The Town Board is deeply troubled by the allegations against Deputy Building Commissioner Novello,” the board wrote. “The Town Board has consistently held that it is best for the criminal justice process to play out and will take further action if warranted, once a final determination is made by the court.”