MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that a Freeport man was arrested yesterday for allegedly stealing more than $110,000 from a Mineola church.
Gennaro Festa, 72, was arraigned before Judge Elizabeth Fox-McDonough and charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a class C felony) and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (an E felony). The defendant was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court September 21.
“This contractor is accused of defrauding a house of worship by stealing more than $110,000 that was earmarked for a new sanctuary,” DA Singas said. “Contractors who disregard the law will be held accountable for their crimes. If you feel you’ve been targeted by an unscrupulous contractor, please contact my office at 516-571-7755 and report the incident.”
DA Singas said on May 14, 2014, Grace International Assembly of God entered a contract with the defendant’s company, Falcon General Construction Service to perform demolition work and build a new structure to serve as a sanctuary. On May 29, 2014, the church wrote a check to Festa for $116,760.00 to cover the cost of steel for the project. Instead of paying his contracted steel manufacturer, the defendant allegedly stole the $116,760.00 and is accused of spending the money on daily expenses including food and gas.
Between June 2014 and March 2017, Festa attended church meetings regarding the progress of the building and assured those in attendance that he had the steel for the prefabricated building in storage. Additionally, Festa allegedly submitted at least twelve certificates that each indicated he had obtained and was storing the steel, which he was not. In January 2017, the church contacted the steel supplier and was notified that the steel had not been ordered, paid for or delivered to a storage location.
The reconstruction project has stalled and is only partially completed. As of July 2018, the new structure is unfinished and exposed to the elements.
The NCDA initiated an investigation in May 2017 after church leaders filed a complaint with the office.
Senior Assistant District Attorney April Montgomery of the Financial Crimes Bureau is prosecuting this case. The defendant is represented by Richard Benson, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.