It seems bad habits die hard in Crookhaven.
A Brookhaven Highway Department worker has been accused of leading a cocaine and prescription drug dealing ring that included an ex-NYPD cop among its ranks. It’s the latest in a string of highway department and public corruption arrests over the past decade that helped earn the township its infamous moniker.
The alleged ringleader, 30-year-old Thomas Forkin of Miller Place, pleaded not guilty last week at Suffolk County court to conspiracy, drug possession and other charges. He was ordered held without bail Wednesday after being indicted on a new count of operating as a major trafficker, punishable by up to life in prison.
“In essence, he conducted his criminal organization at the expense of town taxpayers,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota told reporters during a Thursday news conference at his Hauppauge office.
He said Forkin, who was in his fourth year working for the town, dealt drugs from town vehicles while on-duty and other town highway workers were among his clients. Forkin made $63,608 this year in addition to tens of thousands more in alleged ill-gotten gains.
The ex-cop, 44-year-old Thomas Gironda of Setauket, is free on $250,000 bail after pleading not guilty to conspiracy for allegedly using his place of East Setauket business, New Look Concrete, to stash Forkin’s drugs. Gironda and the other four suspects accused of working as Forkin’s dealers were scheduled to be arraigned on additional charges Friday.
The allegations against Forkin, while shocking, are nothing new for the Crookhaven Highway Department.
Anthony Gazzola, a former town highway department laborer, and Joseph Manzella, a town sign shop worker, were arrested on charges of illegally selling Hydrocodone, a prescription painkiller, in September 2010.
Gazzola is now serving time in an upstate New York prison after being convicted of burglary and attempted burglary.
A month later, a former Brookhaven Highway Department foreman, Louis “Buddy” Pulsonetti, was arrested for stealing scrap metal from the town highway yard and selling it at a salvage yard over a four-year period.
Back in 2003, authorities arrested Rafael Garcia, another Brookhaven Highway Department worker, on charges of improperly using town equipment, but he died before the case was concluded.
And in perhaps the biggest Crookhaven highway case of all, former Highway Superintendent Patricia Strebel was convicted in 2004 on 31 counts stemming from a political bribery case. She was fined and avoided jail time.
What’s more, the half-dozen highway department arrests over the past decade don’t count as many other Brookhaven employees—from elected officials like Strebel down to low-level workers in various town departments—arrested for stealing in one way or another from Long Island’s geographically largest and historically most corrupt township.
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, who was sworn in last month as the first Republican to win the town’s top job since Strebel and other town corruption scandals at the time, called the latest arrests “disheartening”—especially considering that the highway workers allegedly skirted random drug testing.
Strebel’s successor, outgoing Highway Superintendent John Rouse, a Democrat who was recently elected Suffolk County judge, was apparently unaware of the drug dealing that prosecutors said Forkin was committing for years.
“It is my hope that the selfish criminal activity of a few will not tarnish the sterling reputation that our employees currently enjoy and deserve,” Rouse said in a statement.
Spota said more arrests are expected, although instead of Brookhaven workers, they may include another profession subject to their share of busts lately—the physicians who supplied the prescriptions that Forkin allegedly dealt.