Gubernatorial wannabe Steve Levy this morning is trying to explain his “Odd Couple” roommate, a disgraced lawyer named Ethan Ellner, who recently copped a guilty plea in a massive mortgage scam with a kinky overlay of S&M.
As the Daily News‘ relentless Elizabeth Benjamin reports today, Levy shared his former home on Raft Avenue in Holbrook on Long Island with Ellner, a pal from their days at St. John’s Law School. The duo were roommates — Levy’s spokesman says the home is a duplex, although it’s listed in tax records as a single-family home — from October 2001 to April 2004.
Update: Levy’s spokesman insists there are separate living quarters in the home, even though it may be listed as a single-family. “He never lived with Mr. Ellner. Mr. Ellner was a tenant.”
That said, at the time, both men were having Oscar and Felix-style headaches, reports Benjamin: Ellner had lost his law license after being convicted on a tax-evasion scam; he was also going through a divorce. Levy was separated from his own wife, Colleen, although the two later reconciled when Levy ran for Suffolk County executive in 2003.
Levy was so trusting of his pal that he let Ellner represent his mother in a lawsuit against the IRS.
Last year, Ellner got into bigger trouble when he pled guilty in what Suffolk County D.A. Thomas Spota said was an $82 million real estate mortgage-fraud case. Ellner’s alleged cohorts included an ex-county legislator named George Guldi, whom he met through Levy(Levy insists not; Guldi not saying). Allegedly orchestrating the scheme was Donald McPherson, a lower Manhattan activist and publisher of a paper called the Soho Journal, who also ran the fabulous “Black and Blue Ball” for S&M aficionados. Spota said the schemers recruited S&M patrons as straw buyers for expensive properties on Long Island’s East End.
Levy spokesman Josh Hills confirmed to Benjamin that the two had lived together shared the house, and chalked it up to his client’s desire to help out a pal in trouble. “Not only Steve, but a number of people in the community were giving [Ellner] a second chance.” He said Levy knew nothing about the schemes and hasn’t spoken to his former roommate since his indictment last year.
A spokesman for state GOP chief Ed Cox, who helped recruit Levy to the Republican Party last month and has endorsed him for governor, told Benjamin his boss didn’t know about the case, but that it is no big deal. “How many degrees of separation are there before something becomes totally irrelevant to a person’s candidacy? I would argue that we’re there.”