Attorney General Letitia James and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the jury verdict of the former City of Mount Vernon Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari for abusing his position as a public official to engage in a scheme that defrauded the Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply of $365,000 to pay the personal legal expenses of the former Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas and a public relations firm.
"Mr. Porcari violated his public duty, manipulated city finances and authorized payments of thousands of city dollars for the defense of former Mayor Richard Thomas' criminal case," said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. "He also failed to protect the interests of the citizens of Mount Vernon, and is now a convicted felon. I thank Attorney General James for her partnership in fighting public corruption."
“Today’s conviction is further evidence that individuals who cheat taxpayers, commit fraud, or violate the public trust have no place in the state of New York, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Attorney General James. “My office is committed to uphold the integrity of New York’s public servants, and provide the people with the good, honest, and transparent government that they deserve. I thank Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for his continued partnership in rooting out corruption and bringing bad actors to justice at every level of government and in every corner of this state.
A Westchester County jury found Porcari guilty of:
- Corrupting the Government in the First Degree (B felony)
- Grand Larceny in the Second Degree as a Crime of Public Corruption (B felony)
- Defrauding the Government (E felony)
- Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (E felony) – 3 Counts
- Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree (A misdemeanor) – 1 Count
According to the testimony and evidence presented at trial, Porcari misappropriated funds from the City of Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply to pay law firms for the personal defense of former Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas in criminal proceedings, as well as a public relations firm hired at the time of Thomas’ arrest in March 2018.
Approval for the rate of payment for one of the law firms and the public relations firm was sought from the City’s Board of Estimate and Contract on multiple dates in April and May of 2018 but was never obtained. Instead, Porcari arranged for payments from the funds from the Board of Water Supply, which consists of money paid by customers for their use of water and whose use is limited by state and local law to Board of Water Supply purposes. The scheme continued into the fall of 2018 with payments from the Board of Water Supply to a second firm later retained for Thomas’s defense. To further the scheme, Porcari submitted memorandums to the Board of Water Supply for “emergency” payments to the law firms, including memorandums containing false statements.
The trial took place in Westchester County Court in White Plains, New York, before Judge David Zuckerman, from December 3rd to December 16th, 2019. Sentencing is scheduled for March 4th, 2020.
Since 2011, the Attorney General and State Comptroller offices have worked together to fight corruption through their Joint Task Force on Public Integrity. They have brought charges against dozens of individuals implicated in public corruption schemes around the state – resulting in the return of more than $11 million in restitution to taxpayers through these convictions.
The Attorney General thanks the Office of the State Comptroller’s Division of Investigations for their assistance in this investigation.
The investigation was handled by Investigator Angel LaPorte, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Supervising Investigator Sylvia Rivera, and the overall supervision of Investigation Division Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes. Assisting in the investigation and providing forensic auditing analysis was Forensic Auditor Andre Hartley, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Auditor Sandy Bizzarro. Also assisting in the investigation was Legal Support Analyst Rebecca Saber.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Meagan Powers and Special Counsel Brian Weinberg of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Travis Hill. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jose Maldonado and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
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, 8th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.