A former Nassau County judge who admitted to laundering money for mobsters and dealing in "stolen" diamonds was sentenced Friday to 33 months in prison.
David A. Gross, who was elected a district judge in 1999, billed himself as a "law and order" judge and showed no visible emotion as Eastern District of New York Judge Arthur D. Spatt handed down the sentence and admonished the disgraced judge for abusing the public's trust.
"His history includes the fact that he was honored to be elected district judge of Nassau County," said Spatt, sitting in Central Islip federal court, before sentencing Gross to the low end of the sentencing guidelines for the C felony offense. The range is 33 to 41 months.
The office of district judge, Spatt said, "was one that I myself never attained, even though I tried three times. The position of a judge in our society is a prized achievement and brings with it the responsibility of total integrity and honesty,"
Dressed in a gray suit, Gross, 45, addressed the court briefly before sentencing. He apologized for his role in a scheme to launder money, involving an undercover FBI agent, a known mobster with ties to the Genovese crime family and a Freeport restaurateur.
"I stand before [the court] a broken man, full of remorse, guilt, shame and regret," said Gross, adding that law was his lifelong passion.
He said a turbulent life led him to befriend individuals involved in organized crime.
"My despair and frustration led me to seek distraction in a fantasy life," the ex-judge said.
Noting that none of his actions "were motivated by greed," Gross turned to his family, assembled in the front row of the courtroom, and broke into tears. He apologized to his mother, father and wife before his family members, in turn, began sobbing.
The middle man in the laundering scam, Gross was introduced to an undercover federal agent posing as an international trafficker in stolen diamonds by organized crime figure Nicholas Gruttadauria, 64, in January 2005. Gross then introduced the agent to Kim Brady Land, 55, who agreed to use his Freeport restaurant, Cafe by the Sea, as a front for hiding the proceeds of the jewelry sales.
Arrested on Aug. 30, 2005, after a two and-a-half year federal investigation into a Genovese crime family video gambling operation on Long Island, Gross was indicted on charges he helped move $7,500 in what he believed were stolen diamonds and helped launder $130,000 through fake receipts for parties purportedly catered at Cafe by the Sea.
On April 20, 2007, Gruttadauria pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiring to operate an illegal gambling business. On June 12, Land pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy. The next day, Gross pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money, said his lawyer, John Carman of Garden City.
According to a federal affidavit unsealed on Aug. 30, 2005, a series of recorded conversations and meetings between the agent and Gross helped form the crux of the case against the former judge.
According to transcripts, Gross and the agent discussed different ways to launder money, including through his campaign funds and automobile businesses.
At the presentencing report stage of the hearing, Spatt discussed a meeting between the agent and Gross, where the two disagreed on whether Gross should have been keeping $40,000 in cash in the trunk of his car, which had judicial plates.
According to transcripts, Gross assured the agent that this was the safest route, since "I have judge plates all over it ... Nobody's gonna break into a car with judge plates."
Spatt found that Gross' intent was to conceal illicit profits through his position as a judge.
"I find that the government has established beyond a preponderance of the evidence that this defendant abused his position of trust," said Spatt.
Gross also gave the agent a copy of his self-published book, "If the Robe Fits: A View from the Bench," a compilation of anecdotes from cases he had presided. The ex-judge signed the book, "Thanks for being my friend."
Gross was suspended from the bench in September 2005. As a district court judge, Gross handled civil cases involving less than $15,000, low-level felony and misdemeanor cases and landlord-tenant disputes and was paid about $122,000 a year. A 1987 graduate of Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, he worked as a lawyer in the insurance industry and as a solo practitioner before becoming a judge.
Under the plea deal, Gross had to return $7,000 in profits he made from the money laundering scheme, as well as a pair of 1.7 carat diamond earrings he received from the undercover agent as a bonus for his role in helping launder the cash.
Gross is scheduled to surrender to authorities on Jan. 14.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Miskiewicz, Cynthia M. Monaco and Richard Lunger prosecuted the case.
The Bureau of Prisons will determine where Gross will serve his sentence. The maximum penalty he would have faced was 20 years. There is no parole in the federal system.
Gross has "a wife and a couple of kids he was trying to hang on and just trying to put food on the table, knowing that this day was coming," Carman said Friday in an interview. "It's a classic fall from grace -- he's a good guy who made a mistake who will now serve his punishment for the rest of his life."