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Former Rotterdam official going to prison

Albany-- Ex-supervisor gets 21- month sentence, fines for extortion

By DANIELLE T. FURFARO, Staff writer
First published: Tuesday, August 13, 2002

The first Rotterdam official to be charged in an ongoing corruption probe targeting town government was sentenced Monday to 21 months in federal prison for extorting money from a contractor.

Justice Thomas McAvoy ordered former town supervisor James A. Constantino to surrender to federal marshals on Sept. 24.

Last fall, Constantino pleaded guilty to a federal extortion charge after admitting that in 1996 he took $8,000 from William M. Larned & Sons Inc., a Rotterdam excavation firm. McAvoy ordered Constantino to repay the $8,000 to Larned and pay a $5,000 court fine.

Constantino threatened to withhold town contracts from the company unless he was paid the money. McAvoy said the company was a victim of the crime.

Sentencing guidelines had called for Constantino to be sentenced to one to three years in prison.

At the sentencing, McAvoy said Constantino's crime had contributed to a distrust of public officials.

"The problem with a crime like this is that it results in a loss of confidence in the entire state of the country," said McAvoy. "It is weakening this country."

FBI spokeswoman Lisa Masseroni declined to comment on the ongoing probe, which started in April 2001 after the bureau subpoenaed records of all transactions between the town and 11 private firms.

Constantino's attorney, Robert Gottlieb of Long Island, said his client's life has been ruined by both the federal charges and a state case in which Constantino pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child.

In that case, a 13-year-old girl alleged that Constantino, who was working as a substitute teacher in Guilderland, touched her on the buttocks during a fire drill. He received three years probation on the charge.

Submitted by: Werner Hetzner 

Source: Albany Times Union  8/13/02




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