Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that a Freeport man was recently arrested for allegedly stealing more than $110,000 from a Mineola church.
Gennaro Festa, 72, was arraigned before Judge Elizabeth Fox-McDonough and charged with second-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud. Festa was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court Friday, Sept. 21.
“This contractor is accused of defrauding a house of worship by stealing more than $110,000 that was earmarked for a new sanctuary,” said Singas. “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.”
Singas said on May 14, 2014, Grace International Assembly of God entered a contract with Festa’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 to cover the cost of steel for the project. Instead of paying his contracted steel manufacturer, Festa allegedly stole the money 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 12 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. Festa is represented by Richard Benson, Esq.
—Submitted by the office of Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas