Former Nassau County Chief Deputy Executive Richard “Rob” Walker pleaded guilty to a single count of obstruction of justice in federal court for the Eastern District of New York on May 29, in a case arising from a federal probe into Nassau County contracts.
In pleading guilty, Walker, 44, a Hicksville Republican who served as former County Executive Ed Mangano’s top lieutenant from 2010 until 2018, admitted that he knowingly accepted $5,000 from an unnamed county contractor at a meeting in South Bend, Ind., in 2014. He further admitted to attempting to persuade the contractor not to disclose the payment to federal investigators after becoming aware of a grand jury investigation into Nassau County contractors in 2017.
The charges stemmed from an invitation to join a county contractor at a football game at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend. During the course of the trip, Walker accepted the $5,000 payment from the contractor, who was a government informant. After learning of the investigation, Walker attempted on several occasions to convince the contractor to conceal or to lie about the circumstances surrounding the payment. Finally, Walker returned the payment, which was witnessed by federal agents. After the contractor turned the money over to the government, Walker lied to law enforcement agents about having received any payment.
As part of his agreement with federal prosecutors, Walker waived his right to a jury trial, as well as his right to appeal the verdict, only retaining the right to appeal a sentence in excess of federal guidelines. A second charge of making false statements to the F.B.I. was dropped as part of the plea deal. Walker was facing further allegations of obstruction before entering his plea last week.
U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue indicated to U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack that his office intended to ask for a sentence in excess of the 21 months recommended for a first offense in the manual of Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Those guidelines also call for a fine of from $7,500 to $75,000. Donoghue indicated that his office would ask for a fine of $5,000.
Walker abused his position of public trust, Donoghue said, and while holding public office “attempted to conceal his corrupt conduct by urging a witness to lie to the grand jury.”
Walker’s attorney, Brian Griffin, of Garden City, said that he intended to ask Azrack for a more lenient sentence than provided for in the guidelines.
“Mr. Walker pled guilty to a single count of obstruction of justice,” Griffin said later in a statement. “The remainder of the indictment was dismissed. This is and was a fair resolution of the matter.”
No date was set for sentencing or for reconsideration of bail. Walker is free on a $200,000 surety bond secured by his Hicksville home.
Walker had a long-standing relationship with Mangano beginning with a summer internship in 1996, when Mangano represented Nassau’s 17th Legislative District.
As Mangano’s No. 2, Walker oversaw a range of county contracts, including repairs to county facilities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and renovations to the Nassau Memorial Veterans Coliseum. He was known in county Republican circles as a fundraising star, reportedly raised more than $1.3 million as head of the Hicksville Republican Committee.
Walker served two terms in the state house, representing the county’s 15th Assembly District until he was tapped by Mangano to manage his 2009 campaign for county executive against incumbent Democrat Tom Suozzi, of Glen Cove. Before his victory in the special election that sent him to Albany, Walker also held several positions in the Town of Oyster Bay, including director of traffic safety and constituent services and assistant to Town Supervisor John Venditto.
Venditto was indicted in 2016 at the same time as Ed and wife Linda Mangano and charged with allegedly accepting bribes from Oyster Bay restaurant owner Harendra Singh. He was acquitted of all charges last year. The Manganos were found guilty of all charges in March after their first trial ended in a mistrial.
Walker’s mother, Rose, served as a councilwoman in Town of Oyster Bay before stepping into Mangano’s seat in the County Legislature in 2010.