UPDATE: Steuben County Legislator Steve Maio’s lawyer Matthew J. Buzzetti issued the following statement tonight
My office has been made aware, through a recent press release that Attorney
Steven Maio has again been indicted on numerous false allegations. My office looks
forward to, once again, establishing that these allegations are legally baseless against
Matthew J. Buzzetti
When asked how, or if, the new charges would change the approach to the case
Attorney Buzzetti stated:
No, absolutely not. These charges are the same ones that were previously dismissed for a variety of reasons, and not solely due to a technicality. While there are some new charges, those are equally untrue. It appears that the Steuben County District Attorney’s Office did not want to consider the Court’s urging of a special prosecutor, or the need to review the legal sufficiency of the evidence as it relates to my client. I am beginning to believe this is some type of vendetta against Attorney Maio for either his outspoken position on the Legislature or his rigorous criminal defense work.
Matthew J. Buzzetti
When asked to comment specifically on the charges Attorney Buzzetti stated he
Since I have not seen the actual charges and only a press release, I will reserve further comment until I have reviewed them.
Matthew J. Buzzetti
BATH, N.Y. (WETM) – A Steuben County grand jury handed up a new 54 count indictment against four men, including Steuben County Legislator Steve Maio, as part of a criminal enterprise investigation, according to Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker.
No charges were announced against a fifth man who was previously charged as being part of the enterprise, Michael Stratton of Corning.
Previous charges against Maio, Larry Comfort Sr., Larry Comfort Jr., Michael Stratton, and Jonathan Hamilton were dismissed on what Baker called a “technicality” during previous grand jury proceedings.
Maio’s attorney Matthew Buzzetti says that a state police investigator was “operating some machinery as well as listening and observing some of the testimony” during the initial grand jury proceedings. Baker says the officer had pressed play on audio recordings that were being used as evidence during the hearing.
All four men have now been indicted for enterprise corruption based on allegations that between December 2015 and December 2020 the four men had “knowledge of the existence of a criminal prostitution enterprise and being associated with such enterprise intentionally conducted or participated in the affairs of said enterprise by engaging in a pattern of criminal activity.”
Larry Comfort Sr. and Jonathan Hamilton are jointly charged with four counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, four counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, and one count of attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, each class B felonies, in connection to the alleged sale of cocaine on various dates in 2020.
Lary Comfort Sr. is by the indictment individually charged with the following crimes on various dates between 2015 and 2020: two counts of criminal solicitation in the second degree alleging that he solicited another to commit the crime of murder in the second degree, three counts of conspiracy in the second degree alleging that he agreed with another to commit the crime of murder, conspiracy in the fourth degree alleging that he agreed with another that the crime of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree be committed, four counts of promoting prostitution in the fourth degree, four counts of attempted promotion of prostitution in the fourth degree, attempted promoting prostitution in the fourth degree, sex trafficking alleging that he advanced or profited from the prostitution by providing narcotics and satisfaction of a debt, attempted sex trafficking, sale of untaxed cigarettes, four counts of endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful surveillance, dissemination of unlawful surveillance material, promoting prostitution in the second degree, promoting prostitution in the second degree as a sexually motivated felony alleging that he advanced prostitution by force and did so for his own sexual gratification, attempted falsifying business records in the first degree, and criminal solicitation in the fourth degree.
Larry Comfort Jr, Larry Comfort Sr., and Jonathan Hamilton are jointly charged with the following: sex trafficking, sex trafficking as a sexually motivated felony.
Larry Comfort Jr. and Larry Comfort Sr. are jointly charged with sex trafficking, a class B felony, “alleging that they aiding and be aided by each other intentionally advance prostitution by providing a person who is patronized with narcotics to impair such person’s judgment.”
Larry Comfort Sr., Larry Comfort Jr., and Steven Maio are jointly charged by the indictment for promoting prostitution in the third degree, based on allegations where they “knowingly advanced prostitution by managing a prostitution business involving prostitution activity by two or more persons.”
Larry Comfort Sr. and Steve Maio are jointly charged by the indictment with: forgery in the second degree based on allegations they intended to defraud by “knowingly made and completed a power of attorney.”
Steve Maio has been individually charged with the following crimes: two counts of patronizing a person for prostitution in the third degree, attempted promoting prostitution in the third degree, conspiracy in the fifth-degree, two counts of criminal solicitation, coercion in the second degree, and falsifying business records, first degree.
Jonathan Hamilton was individually charged with the following crimes: criminal contempt in the second degree for allegedly violating an order or protection for a grand jury witness and obstructing governmental administration in the second degree alleging that “he intentionally attempted to prevent a public servant from performing an official function, a grand jury investigation.”
Maio, a Democrat representing the City of Corning, was also arrested on Aug. 12 and was issued an appearance ticket by New York State Police. He pled not guilty in Hornellsville Town Court in November to patronizing a prostitute, according to his former attorney Chris Tunney.
According to the latest indictment, Maio allegedly patronized a prostitute in the City of Corning in June 2020 and committed a “similar act” in the Town of Hornellsville in August.
Baker says Maio was not charged with sex trafficking as part of this indictment but was charged “as part of the enterprise corruption program. He is a participant in the enterprise corruption and engaged in a course of criminal conduct to advance the aims of the enterprise.”
Baker says the falsifying business records and forgery charges were part of a “cover-up” by Maio. Maio was arrested, appeared in court, and was released on his own recognizance.
Following Maio’s arrest, Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler did not have any comment when asked about Maio’s status on the county legislature.
Steuben County Republican Chairman Joe Sempolinski released a statement last year calling for Maio’s resignation:
“I was shocked to learn today that Steuben County Legislator Steve Maio had been charged in connection to an investigation into a sex trafficking ring. Mr. Maio has been charged with felonies related to his alleged participation in horrific criminal activity alongside some of the most notorious criminals in Steuben County history. He is an utter disgrace to his office, profession and Steuben County. He needs to resign his office immediately. Not tomorrow. Not later today. Immediately.”JOSEPH SEMPOLINSKI – CHAIRMAN, STEUBEN COUNTY REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE (DEC. 2020)
According to Baker, “The New York State Special Investigation Unit received the first tip about this group, then initiated and quarterbacked the investigation with assistance from the New York State Police Violent Gangs and Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Elmira City Police Drug Enforcement Unit and Troopers from the Painted Post Barracks. They followed leads, did hundreds of hours of surveillance, interviewed witnesses, and put the evidence together for the Grand Jury that ultimately led to this Indictment.”
Comfort Sr. and Stratton were stopped by Troopers in a vehicle and were arraigned in Steuben County Court, both entering not guilty pleas. Stratton was released on his own recognizance.
Hamilton was arrested after a foot chase with New York State Police and was remanded without bail to the Steuben County Jail.
Baker says Comfort Sr. remains in jail and all orders of protection remain in place despite the charges being dismissed.
In 1980, Comfort Sr. was the getaway driver in the fatal shooting of New York State Trooper Robert Van Hall. Both Larry and his brother Joseph Comfort were convicted of murder, but Larry’s conviction was later overturned. He was later convicted on drug charges and was released in 2016.
The full release from Tuesday can be read below: