Steuben County legislator, four others indicted on sex trafficking charges

Jeff Murray
Elmira Star-Gazette

A sitting Steuben County legislator and an Elmira Heights man involved in the fatal 1980 shooting of a state police investigator are among five men indicted by a Steuben County grand jury following an investigation into a reported sex trafficking ring.

The recently unsealed indictment charged Larry J. Comfort Sr. and Larry J. Comfort Jr., both of Elmira Heights, Jonathan F. Hamilton of Elmira, Michael L. Stratton from the Town of Corning, and Steven P. Maio of Corning, with multiple felonies involving allegations of sex trafficking and other crimes in Steuben and Chemung counties.

The indictment contains 34 counts, including sex trafficking, third-degree promoting prostitution, third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal solicitation and conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree falsifying business records, second-degree forgery and enterprise corruption, all felonies.

Larry Comfort Sr. is charged under each count of the indictment, while the others are charged as accomplices to various crimes.

Steven Maio

Maio is a Steuben County legislator and former City of Corning councilman who was charged by state police in August with soliciting a prostitute.

Comfort Sr. and his brother Joseph were charged in connection with the December 1980 fatal shooting of state police investigator Robert Van Hall and wounding of his partner during an ambush at a car wash in the City of Corning.

Both men were originally convicted on murder charges, but Larry Comfort's conviction was later overturned. His conviction on drug charges was upheld and he was paroled in 2013.

Joseph Comfort died in prison in January 2019.

Larry Comfort Sr.

New York State Police initially received a tip about the sex trafficking ring and spent hundreds of hours performing surveillance and conducting witness interviews to put together evidence for a grand jury, according to Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker.

Baker did not offer specifics about what the investigation turned up or how the enterprise operated.

"This is not the type of case we expect in places like Steuben and Chemung counties. Sex trafficking and criminal enterprises are supposed to be urban problems," Baker said in a news release. "This investigation proves that simply isn't the case, that it can happen anywhere, even in our own communities."

Comfort Sr., Comfort Jr., Hamilton and Maio are all charged with enterprise corruption, alleging they intentionally committed felony offenses and participated together in a pattern of criminal activity constituting a criminal enterprise.

All five suspects were taken into custody by state troopers on warrants issued after the indictments were released.

Stratton, the only suspect not charged with enterprise corruption, was arraigned in Steuben County Court and released on his own recognizance.

Maio was also released on his own recognizance pending further court action, while the other three were committed to the Steuben County Jail without bail.

All five suspects pleaded not guilty at their arraignments.

The investigation is continuing, Baker said, and anyone with information about the case should contact New York State Police or the Steuben County District Attorney's Office.

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