Inside a Suffolk Wiretap

Throughout most of 2007, day and night, the Suffolk County district attorney’s Government Corruption Bureau eavesdropped on a politically connected attorney’s wiretapped phone.

The wiretap began with a tip that a prosecutor in the office — John Scott Prudenti — had taken a bribe in exchange for getting a violent felon out of prison. The wiretapped phone belonged to the man who allegedly paid off Prudenti: Robert Macedonio, a cocaine- and alcohol-addicted defense attorney who would occasionally roll up to the courthouse in a Bentley and step out wearing diamonds and a mink coat.

Suffolk investigators and prosecutors listened as Macedonio plotted what they believed to be criminal activity with cocaine traffickers, judges, gang members and various public officials. In some phone calls he was overheard arranging cocaine purchases or tipping off clients to law-enforcement informants, whom he referred to as rats to be poisoned. In other calls, he discussed deals to launder campaign contributions or trade patronage jobs for judgeships.

Operating in secrecy out of an unmarked building in a Hauppauge industrial park, upwards of 15 investigators worked the sprawling case. Some had been pulled from a police narcotics squad, while others were financial specialists probing alleged money laundering and mortgage-fraud schemes orchestrated from Macedonio’s Central Islip law office.

Investigators cultivated informants, sent co-conspirators undercover wearing wires, conducted surveillance, issued subpoenas and obtained warrants to wiretap more than a dozen phone numbers, building dossiers not just on Macedonio but also cocaine dealers, armed robbers and public officials.

The top three officials in the Suffolk district attorney’s office managed the operation. District Attorney Thomas Spota signed affidavits detailing evidence of criminal activity that justified the need for wiretaps. His top assistant and chief of the government corruption bureau, prosecutor Christopher McPartland, often listened in live to the intercepted phone conversations. And James Burke, who at the time was the district attorney’s chief investigator, worked in tandem with McPartland to guide the probe.

It looked like a case destined to end with a press conference touting high-profile indictments involving drug trafficking, mortgage fraud, public corruption and cocaine distribution in Long Island high schools. But according to several officials with knowledge of the investigation, most of the criminal activity went unpunished and investigators were left wondering why such an extensive wiretap operation resulted in so few prosecutions.

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