New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging Robert J. Schusteritsch, 71, of Florida, with the crimes of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, and Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, in Albany County Court. Schusteritsch is alleged to have stolen over $180,000 in pension benefits issued by the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System to his deceased brother, Martin Petschauer, between July 2008 and September 2015.
"This arrest is a warning to those who might steal a deceased relatives' pension," said State Comptroller DiNapoli. "We will track down anyone who tries to defraud our state pension system, and they will be charged accordingly. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for our successful partnership in rooting out the theft of public money."
"Illegally pocketing pension funds intended for a deceased relative is not only reprehensible, it hurts hardworking New Yorkers who depend on their pension for a secure retirement," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Comptroller DiNapoli and I will continue working together to root out pension system theft and hold accountable those who abuse this system."
According to documents filed with the court today, Petschauer was a New York State pensioner who retired as Chief of the Pooling and Audit Review Section of the New York Metro Milk Marketing Area in approximately 1986. He passed away on July 9, 2008. At the time of Petschauer's death, his pension benefits were being direct deposited into a bank account held in a trust for the benefit of Petschauer; Schusteritsch was the sole trustee for his brother and had exclusive access to the bank account.
When Petschauer died, Schusteritsch concealed his brother's death from the bank and the Retirement System and kept the trust account open to maintain the direct deposits. He then routinely accessed the pension deposits and spent the money for his own benefit. All told, prosecutors allege Schusteritsch stole over $180,000 in pension benefits until the Retirement System discovered Petschauer's death in October 2015.
The prosecution also alleges that when the Retirement System learned of Petschauer's death and stopped paying benefits into the trust account, Schusteritsch called the customer help line on November 2, 2015, pretended he was Petschauer, and asserted that he was not actually dead, in an effort to maintain eligibility for the pension benefits.
Schusteritsch was arrested by agents of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office in Florida and brought to Albany County to face the charges. He was arraigned on the indictment today before Honorable Peter A. Lynch in Albany County Court, and entered a plea of not guilty. Bail was set at $10,000 cash or bond, and he was remanded in lieu of posting. If convicted, Schusteritsch faces up to five to fifteen years in state prison.
The charges are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is the latest joint investigation under the Operation Integrity partnership of the Attorney General and Comptroller, which to date has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.
The Comptroller's investigation was conducted by his Division of Investigations, working with the New York State and Local Retirement System.
Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli thanked the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office for their assistance.
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin S. Clark of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary T. Fishman and Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.
The Attorney General's investigation was conducted by Investigator Sam Scotellaro and Deputy Chief Antoine Karam. Forensic accounting was performed by Meaghan Scovello. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella. The Forensic Audit Section is led by Chief Auditor Edward J. Keegan.
Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and 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 [email protected], or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.