Tuckahoe Cops Cleared of Wrongdoing But Will Pay Hefty Fines

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TUCKAHOE, N.Y. -Tuckahoe Police Chief John Costanzo announced two Tuckahoe officers had not committed any criminal wrongdoing in their handling of a 2010 car crash that involved a New York City police officer.

However, the officers, Tuckahoe Police Sgt. John Cuccinello and officer Vincent Pinto will accept a "command discipline," and forfeited some salary instead of a possbile suspension for their actions on April 18, 2010.

Costanzo said Cuccinello was suspended for the equivalent of 16 days, which he satisfied by a reduction of about $7,300 worth of accrued overtime. Pinto was suspended for eight days, and lost $3,200 in accrued overtime.

"The members involved mishandled the investigation of the accident, they accepted the consequences of their mistakes and moved on to serve the village in a professional manner," Costanzo said.

The Tuckahoe Police Department worked with the Westchester County District Attorney's Office and the New York City Police Department Internal Affairs Division conducting an internal investigation of a motor vehicle accident that happened in the village more than 18 months ago.

But the accident did not come to light until May 16, 2011 when it was mentioned during an audio recording of a phone conversation between two New York City Police Department union delegates that was posted on www.DNAinfo.com of a wiretap. The conversation detailed the aftermath of the Tuckahoe accident and the effort to cover up the fact that the officer who was driving had been drunk.

The caller, officer Chris Letizia, discussed how Cuccinello, a friend of his, went to his Tuckahoe home just after the accident to solicit his help in convincing the "bombed" driver to accept summonses for property damage.

Letizia discussed the incident with fellow NYPD Joseph Anthony, one of the PBA's top-ranking delegates in the Bronx. The call was taped as part of a lengthy investigation by the Bronx District Attorney's Office into ticket-fixing by police. Anthony was among 16 NYPD cops indicted two weeks ago in the case, one of the largest police corruption cases in many years.

Letizia and Anthony discussed how the driver in the accident, Michael Lazarou, had smashed his SUV into a decorative light pole and parking meter on Sagamore Road around the corner from his home.

When Cuccinello and Pinto got to the scene, the car was gone. But Pinto followed a fluid trail and found the car, with Lazarou half a mile away on Dante Avenue. Lazarou's property damage summonses were dismissed last fall after his insurance company paid the village $17,600.

Costanzo would not discuss how the officers had acted inappropriately, only saying that they could have handled the matter in a better way. He said there was never any proof that Lazarou had been intoxicated.

Costanzo did say that one of his priorities is to preserve the integrity and reputation of the Tuckahoe Police Department. "I am proud of the service that each member provides and their involvement in addressing the needs of our community," the chief said. "Every day our members strive to earn the public's trust while providing first rate police services."

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