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Jul 9, 2019 12:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Former Southampton Town Planning Board Member Faces Felony Charges

James Zizzi at a Southampton Town Baord meeting in 2007.   PRESS FILE
Jul 9, 2019 2:03 PM

A former Southampton Town Planning Board member who ran a local construction company that built numerous high-end homes on the East End is facing felony charges after he was accused of taking nearly $234,000 from a pair of customers and failing to provide the work promised.

James Zizzi, a 72-year-old former resident of East Quogue who now lives in Naples, Florida, was indicted in Suffolk County Criminal Court on April 8 on charges involving two incidents that occurred between November 2014 and December 2015, according to court documents. His former Quogue-based construction company, Zizzi Construction Corporation, was charged with the same allegations.

Court documents show Mr. Zizzi was charged with second-degree grand larceny, a Class C felony involving amounts greater than $50,000. He was also charged with third-degree grand larceny, a Class D felony involving theft in the amount of more than $3,000.

Mr. Zizzi pleaded not guilty to the charges during a court proceeding on May 16, in front of Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho.

At the same court hearing, Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Tara Fairgrieve broke down the charges against Mr. Zizzi and Zizzi Construction Corp. She said that Mr. Zizzi took money from Jeffrey Allen and failed to use it as intended for two home improvement projects.

“Right now, the people have at least $200,000 as the outstanding restitution and theft amount,” court transcripts show Ms. Fairgrieve told Justice Camacho. “We will finalize the number in the next few weeks.”

She went on to say that between October 29, 2015, and December 31, 2015, Mr. Zizzi was allegedly paid $34,000 from Dr. Jeffrey Epstein to do home improvement projects to his home, and again failed to use the money as intended.

Prior to the May 16 court hearing, Mr. Zizzi had already been incarcerated in Florida for disobeying a civil court order to produce “certain financial documents,” and was transported to Suffolk County. It is not clear whether the documents were connected to the two felony charges of grand larceny or another matter.

The Suffolk County district attorney’s office did not respond to requests seeking additional information, such as a breakdown of the amounts owed by Mr. Zizzi, and whether the incarceration in Florida was connected to these charges.

On June 20, Mr. Zizzi’s attorney, Peter Mayer, of the Hauppauge-based law firm Mayer Baron PLLC, requested that the charges against his client be dropped, but the motion was denied by Justice Camacho.

Mr. Zizzi is currently in a Suffolk County Jail facility in Yaphank in lieu of posting $50,000 cash bail, or $100,000 bond, that was set by Justice Camacho on May 16.

On Tuesday, Mr. Mayer reiterated that his client pleaded not guilty to the charges and plans a vigorous defense.

“I believe this is a civil case and should not be in a criminal court,” Mr. Mayer said. “Quite frankly, he shouldn’t be in custody, based on the fact that he’s being held on bail that is quite exorbitant, given a case like this.”

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