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Manorhaven men sentenced in alleged village fraud case

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Two Manorhaven men – including a one-time political candidate – were sentenced Tuesday and will serve no jail time in a scheme that authorities said attempted to defraud a Long Island municipality out of more than $270,000.

The men – Michael Mercante, 46, and Carlo Strangolagalli, 51, both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors had recommended the men receive no jail time, but had asked for three years probation. Acting State Supreme Court Judge Jerald Carter sentenced both men to two years probation. Mercante’s sentence also included jail time served for a brief stint at the Nassau County Correctional Facility – which he completed while the case was ongoing – before he was released without bail.

Village of Manorhaven officials said the men had concocted “an elaborate scheme” to allegedly collect the more than $270,000 that was earmarked for a village contractor. Authorities said they purported to be the new owners of the contracting business that the village hired to perform work after Superstorm Sandy. The village had hired the construction company to remove trees and debris and to repair damaged sidewalks and curbs.

According to a report in Newsday, Mercante went to Manorhaven Village Hall in January 2013 and told a clerk he had purchased the company along with Strangolagalli. He allegedly told the employees that the $271,914 the village owed the construction company should now go to them. A few days later, he faxed a phony letter that transferred ownership to the two men, the newspaper reported. Village officials called the company’s owner, who told them he did not sell the business.

Asking Carter to sentence Strangolagalli to probation, his attorney, Dana Grossblatt, said her client has been suffering from pancreatitis and requires frequent hospitalizations. She said that even probation would “be quite onerous.” Through his lawyer, Strangolagalli declined to comment.

Mercante ran unsuccessfully in 2004 for a seat on the Manorhaven Village Board of Trustees. He and his lawyer, Karen Bobley, declined to comment as they left the courthouse Tuesday. Prosecutors also had no immediate comment.