Officials in New York announced on Sept. 24 that a man who served as a Chenango County town supervisor for more than three decades has been sentenced to serve between one and three years in state prison. The former Town of Pharsalia official pleaded guilty in June to embezzling $240,000 in public funds. The 72-year-old man was also ordered to make full restitution. Prosecutors say he has already paid the town back $125,000.
Vacations and designer goods
The sequence of events that led to the man’s sentencing began in 2018 when the Cortland County District Attorney’s Office began an investigation following a routine audit. During the course of the investigation, detectives determined that the man had inflated his salary by $20,000 per year and used a Town of Pharsalia credit card to cover his personal expenses. According to media reports, the man used the money he obtained through embezzlement to pay for vacations in New York City and South Carolina, cover his utility bills, take cooking classes and buy luxury goods. The New York State Police took him into custody in April 2019.
Several charges dropped
The man initially faced a raft of charges including counts of corrupting the government, scheming to defraud, public corruption and defrauding the government as well as grand larceny. He avoided a far harsher sentence by entering into a plea agreement in June. In return for his plea, prosecutors dropped all of the charges against him except a single count of grand larceny. The man lost his bid for reelection in November 2019 after serving as the Town of Pharsalia town supervisor for 35 years. He also sat on the town’s public works and finance committees and was a member of its board of supervisors.
Cases like this one rarely go to trial because the prosecutors involved usually have compelling evidence like bank statements and payroll records. Another reason people accused of committing white-collar crimes agree to plead guilty is the significant concessions prosecutors are willing to make to avoid the uncertainties of a trial and the harsh sentences that are often handed down if these cases end with a guilty verdict.