Friday, 15 October 2010 00:00Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has announced recently that an East Meadow man has pleaded guilty to writing letters to government agencies that contained knowingly false information about people he felt had wronged him, including accusations of child abuse by East Meadow school employees. Rice said that investigators used DNA technology to link the defendant to the letters.
In exchange for the defendant’s plea, Nassau County Judge Jerald Carter agreed to sentence him to six months in jail and five years probation.
Robert Zafonte, 65, pleaded guilty on Friday to seven counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony; seven counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, also a class E felony; eight counts of Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor; and five counts of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree, also a class A misdemeanor.
Rice said that between mid-2002 and November 2007, Zafonte, an investigator for the Town of Hempstead and a retired sergeant. in the New York City Housing Police Department, made several false reports targeting a number of people with whom he had some sort of conflict. The first letter targeted an East Meadow School District employee after Zafonte unsuccessfully lobbied for his daughter to be hired by the district, said Rice. Zafonte made anonymous complaints to the New York State Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) accusing the victim of child abuse, she added.
In additional letters, Zafonte anonymously alleged to the Nassau County Tax Assessor and Town of Hempstead Building Department that an East Meadow couple had an illegal fence, apartment and tenants on their property, and that the wife abused children at an elementary school in town, according to the DA. The letters are believed to be retaliation for an argument the couple had with Zafonte regarding the campaign methods of a school board candidate who Zafonte supported, said Rice.
Zafonte also targeted a woman who had responded to a letter he had written to the East Meadow Herald in its “Letters to the Editor” section, by anonymously writing OCFS a letter accusing her and her husband of abusing children, said the DA.
Rice said that in the case of each letter, the false claims were thoroughly investigated and proven to be unfounded. Rice said investigators from her office obtained a sample of Zafonte’s DNA and compared it to DNA taken from the anonymous letters and the genetic profiles were a match. In addition, investigators found Zafonte’s fingerprints on two of the letters, according to Rice.
“This defendant maliciously accused innocent people of horrible crimes because they dared to oppose him, resulting in costly and humiliating investigations for his victims, and now jail time for himself,” Rice said.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew T. Garbarino of the Public Corruption Bureau is handling the case for the District Attorney’s Office. Marc Gann, Esq, represents Zafonte.