Edward Ambrosino, a Republican from Valley Stream, who had served as a Hempstead Town councilman since 2003, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of federal tax evasion and resigned from his seat on the board. He faces 30 to 37 months in prison, and was ordered to pay up to $1 million in restitution as well as penalty fees.
Prosecutors had alleged that from 2011 to 2015, Ambrosino, 54, had collected checks from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency and the county Local Economic Assistance Corporation amounting to $1.3 million for legal consulting work he did for the two agencies as well as the county executive’s office, the majority of which he siphoned from the Uniondale-based law firm for which he worked. He then underreported the income to the Internal Revenue Service and New York state.
Ambrosino had been contractually obligated to contribute the entirety of his income that he earned from non-client services to his former law firm, which while not identified in court documents, has been confirmed to be Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, where he worked from 2001 to 2016.
Instead, prosecutors said, he deposited roughly $800,000 worth of checks in a bank account of a corporation that he formed in 2012 as its sole shareholder, and did not report the majority of his earnings to the law firm.
Additionally, prosecutors outlined a scheme in which Ambrosino deducted rent for a Manhattan apartment as a business expense through the corporation, and avoided paying roughly $250,000 in taxes on the income.
In court, Ambrosino admitted to submitting a tax form on which he omitted income.
Eastern District Court Judge Joanna Seybert ordered him to pay $250,000 in owed taxes to the U.S. government and $700,000 to Ruskin Moscou and Faltischek.
Additionally, he was ordered to pay nearly $370,000 in legal penalties.
Ambrosino’s attorney told the Herald that his client would cooperate with whatever Seybert asked of him.
Ambrosino resigned from the Town Board on Wednesday, and according the town ethics code, he was required to vacate his seat upon conviction of a felony.
Under state law, it will be up to the Town Board to decide whether to appoint a replacement to his seat or defer to the governor to call a special election.
Democratic Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, who was elected in 2017, was quick to condemn Ambrosino’s actions after the plea, saying in a statement that nearly a century of one-party Republican rule in the town had contributed to a culture of corruption, and called on Town Board members to not appoint a successor, as they have traditionally done in the past.
In February, Thomas Tweedy, a former Republican mayor of Floral Park, announced that he was seeking to challenge Ambrosino in November for his seat, running as a Democrat.
Tweedy had served as mayor from 2011 to 2017, and said he was inspired to switch parties and run in the 2nd Councilmatic District after the Town Board and outgoing Republican Supervisor Anthony Santino approved 192 last-minute town personnel transfers and promotions, as well as a no-layoff clause for the workers, the latter of which was overturned in a lawsuit against the board.
The Nassau County Republican Committee has designated Thomas Muscarella, of Garden City, to run for the seat in November. Joe Cairo, the committee chairman, released statement in response to the plea, saying that Ambrosino’s resignation paved the way for continued smooth governance.
“I have known Ed Ambrosino since he was 10 years old,” he said. “This is a very sad day for his family. He has taken responsibility for his actions, and his resignation is an important and necessary step in helping the township to move forward in its mission of serving its residents.”
Ambrosino was arrested in March 2017 and was charged with eight counts of tax evasion, making false tax returns, wire fraud and failure to file a return. He had initially pleaded not guilty to all charges.
He is due back in court on Aug. 9 at 11 a.m.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly noted that the Nassau Republican Committee had yet to designate a 2nd Council District candidate for November. The organization has selected Thomas Muscarella to run for the seat.