WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – After former state Sen. Nicholas Spano pleaded guilty Friday to filing fraudulent tax returns and failing to report income, he and his attorney addressed reporters outside of the federal courthouse. Spano apologized for evading taxes, but would not address any issue of ethics in the case.
“All I can speak for is the fact that Mr. Spano very early on told me that he would be willing to plead guilty for what he did do, never plead guilty for what he didn’t do,” said Spano’s attorney Richard Levitt.
Spano admitted failing to report more than $52,000 income from his real estate business. He was charged with one count of obstructing and impeding the due administration of the Internal Revenue Laws. When asked why Spano would risk everything to pocket the extra money, Levitt brushed the question off.
“This is not the place to psychoanalyze,” Levitt said.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison, but Spano, in reaching a deal with prosecutors, will likely be sentenced to between 12 and 18 months. Half of that term could be served at home, U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel said. Spano could also face a maximum fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss derived from the crime. He will be sentenced June 11, and has been released on a $100,000 bond, which was cosigned by his brother Leonard Spano.
“Former Sen. Nicholas Spano is the latest in a regrettably long line of lawmakers turned lawbreakers," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a press release. "When elected officials put padding their pockets above the law, they tarnish our government and undermine people’s faith in their public servants. We will not tolerate this conduct and will continue to aggressively prosecute those who engage in it.”
While he was soft spoken during session, Spano mingled with reporters and lawyers in the hallways of the federal courthouse in between processions. Spano seemed at ease when he pleaded guilty to failing to report a $45,000 in real estate commission to a White Plains real estate developer in 2004. He also failed to report $8,000 in rental payments in 2005 and 2006.
Spano was forced to hand over his passport along with any firearms he owns and will not be permitted to leave the state without permission from a pretrial services officer.
Spano served 10 terms in the state senate, representing the 35th district, which covers Yonkers, Greenburgh and its villages, Mount Pleasant and Pleasantville. His last successful election, in 2004, dragged on for months in a bruising battle with Andrea Stewart-Cousins. When that election count was finally settled, Spano won by 18 votes. Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) defeated him in the next go-round.
Spano, a Westchester power broker who served as chairman of the Westchester Republican Committee, is the oldest of 16 children from a large family of politicians. His brother Mike, who switched parties to become a Democrat after years of serving as a Republican in the state assembly, was elected mayor of Yonkers in November and took office just weeks ago. Nicholas Spano's father, Leonard, was the Westchester County clerk. (The former County Executive Andy Spano, is not a relation).