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Long Island town official charged with stealing nearly $60K from local Republican committee to buy ‘luxury’ candy, trips

2019-09-08

Hempstead Deputy Building Commissioner John Novello, left, surrendered to authorities Thursday. (NBC 4 New York)

This Long Island town official has a criminal candy craving, according to prosecutors.

John Novello, the deputy commissioner of Hempstead’s department of buildings, was cuffed Thursday and charged with stealing nearly $60,000 from a local Republican committee to cover a lavish winery trip, “luxury” candy, restaurant bills and other high-end expenses, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.

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Novello, 51, surrendered on Thursday morning and was arraigned on grand and petit larceny charges for allegedly dipping into the Cedarhurst Republican Committee’s campaign coffers on numerous occasions between January 2016 and last month.

The local official, who was the only signer on the committee’s bank account, withdrew amounts of up to $2,000 from the account more than 40 times, Singas said. Additionally, he swiped $37,000 from donations to the committee’s annual golf tournament, totaling more than $59,000 in stolen cash, according to the DA.

Singas said Novello transferred the stolen funds into his personal and business accounts and then spent them on home mortgage payments as well as a plethora of luxe goods, including “a trip to a winery, candies, entertainment, gas, restaurants and groceries.”

“This defendant allegedly funded his luxurious lifestyle with contributions that donors made to support the Cedarhurst GOP and its candidates,” Singas said in a statement. “These allegations are an outrageous betrayal of trust by a public official and party leader, and my office is committed to seeking justice.”

Novello, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, could face upwards of 15 years behind bars if convicted of the top count.

He could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen called on Novello to quit and listed off past scandals involving the department of buildings honcho.

“This indictment is just another example of the culture of corruption that has been festering in Town Hall for over a century under one party rule," she said. “In addition to these charges, Mr. Novello has been drawing multiple taxpayer salaries and had inherent and undeniable conflicts of interests in his current Town role, which include operating his own private architectural drafting firm that does business with the Town, serving as the Executive Leader of the Cedarhurst-Meadowmere Park Republican Club and serving as the Chief of Staff to Republican Assemblywoman Missy Miller.”

Gillen added, “For all these reasons, Mr. Novello should resign from his position so that residents can feel safe knowing that their interests are being best served.”

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