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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Press Releases

April 10, 2014, Contact: Press Office (518) 474-4015

DiNapoli: Potsdam Audit Finds Missing Court Funds

The former justice court clerk in the town of Potsdam was arrested for embezzling $117,000 after an audit found she manipulated court accounting records and pocketed cash receipts, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

After finding the fraud, DiNapoli’s office shared the findings with the New York State Police and St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain’s office. In February, the former clerk – Mary Jo Guyette – was charged by the St. Lawrence County District Attorney with one count of grand larceny in the second degree, a class C felony, and one count of falsifying business records in the first degree, a class E felony.

“On the surface, the court’s records appeared to have been well kept and the books looked as if they were balanced,” said DiNapoli. “But our auditors uncovered deleted and altered records for hundreds of vehicle and traffic fines that were paid but never deposited. This individual will now be held accountable for her actions because of the collaboration between my staff, town officials, District Attorney Rain and the New York State Police.”

Auditors found from May 2009 through May 2013, Guyette recorded 830 receipts totaling $115,045 in the justice court’s computerized database. These receipts, however, did not appear on the town’s printed cashbook reports, were not reported to the state Justice Court Fund and were not remitted to the town supervisor.

To avoid detection, the former clerk entered certain fines and fees into the court’s database when they were received but later altered receipt dates so they were not included in any monthly reports.

Auditors also compared receipts recorded in the town’s computer system to the handwritten cashbook entries and deposits for June 2013 and identified a cash shortage of $2,075.

Moving forward, the Comptroller recommended the town:

  • Use prenumbered duplicate receipts and account for them in a consecutive numerical sequence;
  • Compare duplicate receipts to monthly computerized cashbook reports and ensure all receipts are accounted for;
  • Periodically compare a sample of receipts in the computer records with the monthly reports to the state Justice Court Fund; and
  • Take action to recover the money due to the town and state.

Town officials, who suspended Guyette during the audit period, have already taken a number of steps to improve oversight of town court finances. Their response is included in the final audit. For a copy of the report visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/towns/2014/potsdamjc.pdf

DiNapoli encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at investigations@osc.state.ny.us, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Investigations Unit, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.

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