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September 14, 2011

 

Comptroller DiNapoli and DA Murphy: Charlton Fire District Treasurer Allegedly Stole As Much As $500,000

Padded Her Own Pay by $316,670; Shopped with Thousands in Public Funds

The treasurer of the Charlton Fire District misappropriated as much as $500,000 in taxpayer funds, improperly paying herself $316,670 and using Fire District credit cards to buy dozens of personal items including backyard patio bricks, a washer-dryer, refrigerator, furniture and electronic equipment, according to an audit by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

"This treasurer went shopping at taxpayer expense with no one minding the store. There must be zero tolerance for such an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars," DiNapoli said. "Checks and balances are the best defense against financial misdeeds. With my office's audit recommendations and the criminal investigations, the Charlton Fire District will now tighten controls and seek restitution for its taxpayers."

DiNapoli also expressed appreciation for the cooperation his office received from the Saratoga County District Attorney's Office and the New York State Police. "Thanks to the team effort with District Attorney James A. Murphy, III and the NYS Police, this abuse has ended and action will be taken."

Virginia DeCapria, 50, of Charlton, is charged with four felony counts of grand larceny and one felony count of falsifying business records in connection with the unauthorized work payments and improper purchases at Staples, Lowes and Office Max. DiNapoli's office forwarded its findings to the Saratoga County District Attorney's Office and the New York State Police, which are continuing the criminal investigation.

"I am pleased that Comptroller DiNapoli was able to uncover this extraordinary larceny of taxpayer dollars from the Charlton Fire District by the treasurer," Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy, III said. "Thanks to the Comptroller's audit and the investigation by the New York State Police, my office will proceed with a felony prosecution and a presentation to a grand jury to seek an indictment. The Comptroller and I know that only by holding individuals responsible for their criminal conduct can we deter future thefts and ensure that tax dollars end up in public accounts, where they belong."

The thefts began in 2005 and escalated through 2010. In 2010 alone, DeCapria improperly paid herself $158,187, more than 50 percent of that year's Fire District's tax levy. DeCapria was fired in January during the Comptroller's audit.

DiNapoli's audit concluded that the Charlton Fire District exercised virtually no oversight role over DeCapria as she "paid" herself an extra $316,670 from 2005 to 2010. Her abuse of district credit cards also went unchecked as she bought 256 backyard patio stones, 14 printers, seven laptops, a washer-dryer, refrigerator and freezer, along with eight digital cameras, four media players, photo scanners, global positioning systems, leather chairs and other home furnishings that are not in the district's possession and have not been accounted for.

The district has 40 volunteer members and had a $308,723 budget in 2011. DiNapoli advised the Fire District how to strengthen its fiscal controls and urged it to seek reimbursement from DeCapria for the missing items and funds. District officials agreed with the recommendations and will submit a corrective action plan to the Comptroller's office.

Click here for a copy of the audit or visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/firedists/2011/charltonfd/charlton.pdf

New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud, corruption and abuse of taxpayer money by: calling the toll-free fraud hotline at 1-888-672-4555; filing a complaint online at investigations@osc.state.ny.us; or mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller Investigations Unit, 110 State Street, 14th floor, Albany, NY 12236.


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