September 14, 2018

Former Croton-On-Hudson village fire department treasurer pleads guilty in theft of fire department funds


Former Croton-On-Hudson village fire  department treasurer pleads guilty in theft of fire department funds
Source: Office of the State Comptroller

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. and Village of Croton-on-Hudson Police Chief Russel H. Harper announced that Gerald Munson, a former Croton-On-Hudson Fire Department Chief and a former Croton-On-Hudson Police Officer who most recently served as the fire department treasurer, has pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree as a crime of Public Corruption, a class B felony. The charge is related to the theft of more than $300,000 from the Croton-on-Hudson Fire Department.

Munson appeared in Westchester County Court Wednesday before Judge Michael Martinelli. At the time of his plea, he also paid $124,383 in restitution, added to the $25,000 he paid upon arraignment. Munson is scheduled for sentencing
Oct. 29, 2018 at which time he is expected to pay the remainder of restitution.

As fire department treasurer, Munson was responsible for maintaining the Croton-on-Hudson Fire Department bank account and financial records despite having no prior qualifications or background in accounting or financial matters. The felony complaint alleges that he used his position as treasurer to steal and conceal his theft of approximately $312,925 from the Fire Department.

The money he stole included portions of the so-called “2 Percent Money” paid annually to the Fire Department by New York State in connection with the State’s two percent tax on fire insurance. For years, Munson was able to conceal his ongoing theft by altering and manipulating the Department’s bank records. Those alterations and manipulations included his underreporting of the amount of “2 Percent Money” received by the Department in order to balance the books and hide what he stole for himself.

In February 2018, members of the Fire Department’s internal Audit Committee discovered that Munson had provided them with false 2017 bank statements. When confronted by the Audit Committee, Munson admitted he had created the false statements on his home computer; that he had stolen money from the Department’s account for his own personal use; and that he had used the Fire Department’s debit card as if it were his own.

Further investigation and analysis conducted jointly by the New York State Comptroller’s Office, the Village of Croton-on-Hudson Police Department and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that between January 2011 and February 2018, the defendant stole approximately $312,925 from the Fire Department. This joint investigation lead to Munson’s arrest and felony charge.

The Village of Croton-on-Hudson Police Department arrested Munson in June 2018.

“Mr. Munson stole more than $312,000 from his fire department and abused his duty to the public. As a former police officer and fire department chief, his behavior is particularly egregious," said Comptroller DiNapoli, thanking Westchester District Attorney Scarpino and the Croton-on-Hudson Police Department for working with his office to bring Mr. Munson to justice.

“Stealing public money is a crime against all of us. It is also a breach of trust that hurts a community and those dedicated to its safety,” said Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. “Rooting out corruption takes thorough investigation on the part of many departments. We are proud of this collaboration between our Office, the Village of Croton-on-Hudson Police Department and the New York State Comptroller’s Office which was able to shed light on this misuse of public funds.”

“I want to thank Westchester District Attorney Anthony Scarpino and the Investigations Division Public Integrity Bureau, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and the Croton Volunteer Fire Department Audit Committee for assisting the Croton Police Department in conducting this investigation. It was through this collaborative effort that justice will be served,” said Village of Croton-on-Hudson Police Chief Russel H. Harper.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Fitzgerald, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Westchester District Attorney’s Office Investigations Division Public Integrity Bureau, is prosecuting the case.

Since taking office in 2007, Comptroller 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 investigations@osc.state.ny.us, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.

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