April 05, 2018

Retired State employee, after admitting to "double dipping," required to make total restitution in the amount of $156,918.20


Retired State employee, after admitting to "double dipping," required to make total restitution in the amount of $156,918.20
Source: Office of the State Comptroller

On April 3, 2018 New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli  reported that Diane M. Cecero admitted she had been unlawfully “double-dipping" thereby receiving state retirement benefits to which she was not entitled while employed by a political subdivision of the State. The practice of drawing retirement benefits while remaining a public employee is informally known as “double-dipping,” and is prohibited by §150 of the Civil Service subject to a few exceptions, none of which exceptions applied to Ms. Cecero.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said that Ms. Cecero had unlawfully taken $85,000 in state pension benefits in addition to her six figure salary as an employee of a SUNY community college and that Ms. Cecero had agreed to pay back those benefits, with interest, as part of a pretrial diversion agreement.

Ms. Cecero had been a State employee from 1982 until 1996 and had been earning retirement credits as a participant in the New York State and Local Retirement System [NYSLRS]. In 1996 she joined the staff of the community college and, although she was then receiving retirement benefits from NYSLRS, she joined the State University Optional Retirement Program. [ORP].

However, Education Law §390.3, in pertinent part, provides that "No person receiving a benefit by reason of his or her retirement from any retirement or pension system of New York state or any political subdivision thereof shall be eligible to elect the optional retirement program."*

Ms. Cecero admitted that while employed by the community college [1] she had falsely filled out an Application for Service Retirement dated April 3, 2008, which resulted in NYSLRS paying her approximately $85,000 in retirement benefits to which she was not entitled during the years 2008 through 2014 and [2] she that while drawing retirement benefits from NYSLRS, she also participated in SUNY ORP. In addition, the community college had contributed more than $100,000 to the ORP for her benefit during this period.

The United States Attorney’s Office filed a wire fraud charge against Ms. Cecero. As part of the pretrial diversion agreement, it agreed that it would dismiss the charge if, within 18 months, Ms. Cecero made total restitution of $156,918.20: $116,918.20 to NYSLRS and an additional $40,000 to the community college. As part of the agreement, "Ms. Cecero did not admit to committing fraud or to any criminal wrongdoing."

This case was investigated by the Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Barnett and Cyrus P.W. Rieck.

* ORP is not a public retirement system of the State and the public employer not liable for payment of benefits within the meaning of Article V, Section 7, of the State Constitution in that §396 of the Education Law provides that "Neither the state, nor state university, nor any electing employer or its local sponsor shall be a party to any contract purchased in whole or in part with contributions made under the optional retirement program established and administered pursuant to this article. No retirement, death, or other benefits shall be payable by the state, or by state university, or by any electing employer or its local sponsor under such optional retirement program. Such benefits shall be paid to electing employees or their beneficiaries by the designated insurer or insurers in accordance with the terms of their contracts."



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