The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office seized computers and nearly 50 boxes of files from the Westhampton Beach law offices of former Suffolk County Legislator George O. Guldi, and documents from the office of his former partner, as part of an ongoing mortgage fraud investigation targeting properties on the East End, according to authorities.
On Monday, Mr. Guldi’s attorney, Kathy Huang of Manhattan, said she was successful in forcing investigators to return 31 of the 49 boxes of files that were taken during the February 3 search of her client’s Mill Road office. The Suffolk County Supreme Court, however, on Tuesday denied a motion filed by Ms. Huang and Mr. Guldi’s other attorney, John Diffley of Whitestone, seeking to void the search warrant used by the district attorney’s office.
It is unclear if the ongoing mortgage fraud investigation is focusing on Mr. Guldi, or on one or several of his clients. Mr. Guldi’s lawyers emphasized that their client has not been charged with a crime.
“He is not facing criminal charges,” said Ms. Huang, adding that she and Mr. Diffley intend to appeal Tuesday’s ruling to quash the search warrant. “The DA’s office made no suggestion that Mr. Guldi is the target of a criminal investigation,” she added.
Mr. Guldi served as legislator of Suffolk County’s 2nd Legislative District, which runs from East Moriches to Montauk, from 1993 until 2003, when he lost his reelection bid to current Suffolk Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk. Mr. Guldi works as a general practice attorney in his hometown of Westhampton Beach.
Investigators with Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office, who were accompanied by a Westhampton Beach Village Police officer, searched Mr. Guldi’s law office, located at 100 Mill Road, at around 12:30 p.m. on February 3, according to a police report. Investigators took all but one of Mr. Guldi’s computers and 49 boxes of files. Investigators also confiscated several of the computer back-up systems at his office, according to an emergency affidavit written by Mr. Guldi.
Bob Clifford, a spokesman for Mr. Spota, did not return calls Tuesday inquiring about the ongoing mortgage investigation and the recent court ruling that forced investigators to return a significant number of the confiscated files. When reached last week, Mr. Clifford said he could not confirm whether Mr. Guldi was the target of Mr. Spota’s investigation.
“There is an ongoing mortgage fraud investigation involving a large number of properties in the Hamptons,” Mr. Clifford stated in an e-mail sent last week. “I cannot elaborate at this point in the investigation.”
Ms. Huang said she could not comment on whether the investigation was focusing on Mr. Guldi, or one or several of his clients, because the district attorney’s office has not explained to her why they confiscated her client’s documents.
When reached on Tuesday, Mr. Guldi blasted investigators for taking documents that were not covered by the search warrant.
“I have no idea what they’re doing and apparently neither do they,” Mr. Guldi said. “I had no idea that the DA was going to illegally search my office.”
Additionally, the law offices of Thomas McVann, a retired attorney and Mr. Guldi’s former partner, were also searched on February 3, according to documents provided Monday by Mr. Guldi’s attorneys. Mr. McVann’s files were also stored in the Mill Road building.
A copy of the search warrant provided by Mr. Guldi’s attorneys shows that the district attorney’s office was looking specifically for real estate documents, such as transactions, mortgage processing files and mortgage loan applications. They were also looking for financial files, such as checkbooks, bank statements and deposit slips stored in Mr. Guldi’s office.
On Friday, Mr. Diffley said that investigators took items from Mr. Guldi’s office that were clearly not part of a mortgage fraud investigation.
“They took the passports, Social Security cards and birth certificates of his children,” Mr. Diffley said, referring to Mr. Guldi’s children Nick, 22, and Adea, 13. Mr. Diffley said his client’s children could not be part of a mortgage fraud investigation. He added that he did not know if Mr. Guldi’s passport was also confiscated by authorities.
In an emergency affidavit provided by his attorneys, Mr. Guldi wrote that the investigators told him they had a “‘right to take everything.’” Ms. Huang and Mr. Diffley filed the motion to void the search warrant on the grounds that their client’s rights were violated by the search. However, that motion was denied Tuesday by Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge Jerry Garguilo.
“He denied the application in its entirety,” Ms. Huang said, adding that the motion was denied because Mr. Guldi has not been charged with a crime. Because Mr. Guldi has not been charged, “he doesn’t have a right to challenge the validity of the warrant,” Ms. Huang said.