BATH, N.Y. (WETM) – Steuben County Legislator Steve Maio and four other men have been charged as part of a sex trafficking ring in Steuben and Chemung Counties, according to Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker.
Larry J Comfort Sr. and Larry J Comfort Jr. of Elmira Heights; Jonathan Hamilton of Elmira, Michael Stratton of Corning, and Maio were all arrested on a sealed indictment yielded superior court arrest warrant in the last 24 hours.
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 attorney Chris Tunney.
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.”
Maio was also charged with falsifying business records in the first degree and forgery in the second degree as part of what Baker called a “cover up.”
Maio was arrested on Friday and appeared in court before being released on his own recognizance.
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 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
Charges in the indictment include sex trafficking, promoting prostitution, criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal solicitation and conspiracy to commit murder, falsifying businses recods, forgery, enterprise corruption, sale of untaxed cigarettes, endangering the welfare of a child, and other crimes.
District Attorney Baker says the indictment was part of an investigation that lasted over a year “to try to save local victims of sex trafficking.”
Larry Comfort Sr. is charged under each count of the indictment, while his co-defendants are each charged as alleged accomplices to various offenses. 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.
Comfort Sr., Comfort Jr., Hamilton, and Maio are all charged with Enterprise Corruption, “alleging that they intentionally committed felony offenses and participated together in a pattern of activity constituting a criminal enterprise.”
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 late Thursday afternoon and were arraigned in Steuben County Court, both entering not guilty pleas. Stratton was released on his own recognizance.
Hamilton was arrested Friday morning after a foot chase with New York State Police and was remanded without bail to the Steuben County Jail.
The full release from District Attorney Baker can be read below:
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