Richard “Rob” Walker, the former chief deputy county executive under Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, was charged Thursday with obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI.
Walker, 43, a Republican and former state assemblyman from Hicksville, pleaded not guilty after the two-count indictment was unsealed in federal court in Central Islip.
Mangano, his wife, Linda, former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, are scheduled to face charges in federal court next month.
Mangano has been charged with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and extortion. Linda Mangano has been charged with making false statements, conspiracy, extortion and obstruction of justice. Venditto is facing charges of conspiracy, bribery, securities fraud, wire fraud and obstruction of justice. Each has pleaded not guilty.
Walker’s indictment came more than two years after he confirmed while testifying in the corruption trial of former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos that federal prosecutors were probing his role in county contracts that went to political campaign contributors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office described Walker’s felony charges as the result of an ongoing federal investigation into whether Nassau public officials have taken money from county contractors and if those parties then tried to conceal their actions, according to Newsday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields released him on a $200,000 bond. His next court date is set for May 16.
Prosecutors said the charges against Walker stem from a Notre Dame football game in Indiana that he attended as the guest of a Nassau County contractor in October 2014.
After the game, Walker allegedly accepted a $5,000 cash payment from the contractor before returning to New York.
“Lying and obstructing justice by those who are sworn to serve the public will never be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement. “This office, together with our law enforcement partners, is committed to holding officials who violate the public trust accountable for such crimes.”
Authorities said that when Walker learned last year of a federal investigation into potential corruption in Nassau County government, including circumstances surrounding the payment, he spoke to the contractor several times “in an attempt to convince the contractor to conceal the existence of the $5,000 payment from the grand jury.”
Walker then tried to return the $5,000 at a meeting with the contractor at a park in Hicksville, according to federal officials.
Unbeknownst to Walker, the meeting was surveilled by the FBI, the authorities said. After the meeting, the envelope containing the payment was handed over to the authorities, according to the federal statement.
When Walker was interview by the FBI at a later date, he lied several times, including the claim that he never received a cash payment from the contractor, according to federal investigators.
“As alleged, Rob Walker, while serving as a public official, accepted money from a contractor who was performing work for Nassau County. When he found out the FBI was hot on his trail, he tried to cover up his corrupt behavior, even going so far as to attempt to convince the contractor to lie to a grand jury,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney said in a statement. “Walker and others who engage in similar schemes are reminded today that there’s no way to undo what’s already been done.”
Walker served earlier in his career as deputy parks commissioner in the Town of Oyster Bay after first working as an assistant to then-Town of Oyster Bay supervisor John Venditto. He then served in the state Assembly after winning a 2005 special election.
Walker is the son of Rose Marie Walker — a Republican Nassau legislator and former Town of Oyster Bay councilwoman.
Walker drew attention his Hicksville Republican Committee ran a fundraiser in which 87 percent of the $58,350 raised was provided by county vendors. This included $2,925 contributed by VIP Splash Waterways Recovery Group, which received a $12 million deal from the county for Superstorm Sandy cleanup work.
The federal corruption probe also allegedly found that Mangano and Venditto had, in exchange for contracts, received kickbacks from restaurateur Harendra Singh, including a $450,000 no-show job for Mangano’s wife, prosecutors said.
Federal prosecutors had also investigated Skelos, the former Republican majority leader from Rockville Centre, who was convicted alongside his son, Adam, in 2015 on charges including bribery, extortion and conspiracy.
A retrial was ordered for Skelos last September, although the appeals court said the evidence in the case was enough to allow a “correctly charged jury” to reach a guilty verdict.