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Smithtown contractor admits to bribe

  Criminal Law  -   POSTED: 2008/04/28 17:08

A Smithtown contractor pleaded guilty to a felony bribery charge on Monday -- the second person to admit guilt and agree to cooperate in a widening buildings department corruption probe that has rocked town government.

Robert Fitzpatrick, 55, of Bayport, pleaded guilty to third-degree bribery before Suffolk County Court Judge Martin Efman. He was released on his own recognizance pending sentencing on July 14.

As part of a plea deal, Fitzpatrick faces a maximum of 1 to 3 years in prison, or as little as no jail time at all.

Prosecutor Kevin Ward said Fitzpatrick admitted to offering a $5,000 bribe to then-chief buildings inspector Robert Bonerba in March 2003 in connection with a house Ward was building for Smithtown developer Frank Esposito.

Ward said Fitzpatrick lied on building permits for the developer's house to save money on permit fees and avoid a higher tax liability.

Rocking back and forth in brown loafers and with his hands folded neatly in front of his blue sport coat, Fitzpatrick said only "yes" and "no" before the judge.

Earlier this month, Esposito, of Nissequogue, pleaded guilty to giving Bonerba a $10,000 bribe. Ward said in court Monday that Fitzpatrick and Esposito evenly contributed $5,000 toward the bribe. Bonerba has not been charged in the case.

Also as part of his plea deal, Fitzpatrick agreed to pay the town $50,000 -- money prosecutors say he gained illegally in the project.

Fitzpatrick now joins Esposito in helping prosecutors understand the depth of town corruption.

"The defendant has entered into a cooperation agreement with the district attorney's office," Ward said in court.

Outside the courtroom, Ward said only, "We are going to follow the evidence wherever it leads us. This investigation is active and ongoing. It encompasses both the town building's department and the rest of town government."

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has been investigating the buildings department for two years.

Asked by reporters about his cooperation, Fitzpatrick, said only "Not at this time." His attorney, Fred Schwartz, of Smithtown, also declined to comment.

Bonerba was suspended by the town in December 2006 for failing to properly fill out his financial disclosure statements. Before a hearing could be held to weigh his termination, he retired on a state pension of $31,871.

Bonerba could not immediately be reached for comment.


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