An investigation by Newsday has uncovered records showing bonus payments to Suffolk County, New York district attorney employees that totaled $3.25 million since 2012. The source of those funds? Assets seized in criminal cases.
Deputy chief homicide prosecutor Robert Biancavilla received a total of $108,886 between 2012 and 2017, according to records obtained through New York’s Freedom of Information Law. Division chief Edward Heilig received $73,000. None of the bonuses received legislative approval.
Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) aims to change that. He has sponsored a bill that would require asset forfeiture expenditures to be approved by the Public Safety Committee. Calarco told Newsday that these bonuses were an inappropriate use of asset forfeiture funds.
“Asset forfeiture money that comes into this county counts into the millions of dollars,” Calarco said. “That’s a lot of money to be spent at the sole direction of an individual with no oversight.”
Biancavilla referred to the bonuses as “stipends,” which he received because he served as both a nights and weekend on-call homicide prosecutor, and an acting deputy bureau chief. He told Newsday that he “had no idea” that the funds came from asset forfeiture proceeds, and he asserted that the amount shown on the records was wrong. “It certainly wasn’t $109,000 since 2012,” he said. “I wish it was.”
Meanwhile, chief public corruption prosecutor Christopher McPartland, who received $73,000 in bonuses between 2012 and 2017, is facing federal charges related to allegations that he and former district attorney Thomas Spota attempted to cover up police chief James Burke’s assault of a suspect who broke into his car. And according to Newsday’s source, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has issued a subpoena for records relating to the bonuses.
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