Saratoga County

Couple admits stealing $62,000 from fire district

A husband and wife, who police say embezzled nearly $62,000 from the West Crescent Fire District,

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A husband and wife, who police say embezzled nearly $62,000 from the West Crescent Fire District, each pleaded guilty to felony charges on Monday in Saratoga County Court.

Lee F. Lussier, 51, a former treasurer of the fire district, pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny in the theft of $43,000 from the fire district over a six-year period.

He will be required to make restitution of the $43,000, starting with a lump sum of $10,000 to the fire district and W.K. Mansfield Hose Co., the social arm of the fire district that runs breakfasts and rents out the firehouse on Crescent Road in Clifton Park.

His wife, Dawn Lussier, 46, who managed rentals of the fire hall, pleaded guilty to first-degree falsifying business records, a felony. She will be required to make $18,400 in restitution.

Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III said Monday that the husband and wife, who are no longer associated with the fire district, will be sentenced sometime within the next 90 days by Saratoga County Judge Jerry Scarano Jr.

Murphy said he wants to see Lee Lussier sentenced to at least “some jail time” as well as make complete restitution and serve five years’ probation.

“He violated the public trust,” Murphy said about the former district treasurer. “He took public money and donated money.”

Murphy would not say how much time Lussier should spend in jail, leaving this up to Judge Scarano.

Murphy said Lussier’s wife was less involved in embezzlement case. But she “knew what he was doing.” “She was a co-conspirator,” Murphy said. He said a very short jail term should also be imposed on her in addition to restitution and court-ordered probation.

The fire district discovered money was missing from district accounts in early 2007 when an internal audit by the fire company was done.

Fire officials immediately imposed an oversight system to prevent further misappropriations and notified state police and the comptroller’s office about what appeared to be a crime, according to district officials.

State auditors attributed the missing money to poor recordkeeping and a weak system of financial controls. A story in the Oct. 25, 2007, Daily Gazette indicated that the state audit found the Lee Lussier had unlimited access and control of the company funds with little oversight.

Police said the couple acquired most of the missing money by writing checks to “cash.”

Dawn Lussier collected funds for fire hall rentals, deposited the money, and then made withdrawals from an ATM machine, according to a statement from the state comptroller’s office.

The state comptroller’s office recommended numerous changes in the fire district’s recordkeeping, including reviewing monthly financial reports to verify that cash deposits agree with company books.

Murphy said he demanded that the Lussiers provide the fire district with full restitution of funds they took,

“We were confident that we could prove the amount they stole,” Murphy said.

“The victims are satisfied,” Murphy said. He said the fire district wanted full restitution and wanted the Lussiers to plead to felony charges.

Ed Trembley of the Saratoga County Emergency Office was present in the courtroom Monday and asked Judge Scarano, on behalf of West Crescent, to accept the pleas of guilty to the charges.

Authorities said that Lee Lussier made an admission to fire company officials and state police, saying his financial condition was poor and that he was in “very dire straits,” according to the Gazette story.

Murphy said he did not know how the Lussiers spent the nearly $62,000.

W.K. Mansfield Hose Company is a non-taxing entity that supplies the fire district with firefighters and serves as the social arm of the West Crescent Fire District. The organization’s money comes from public breakfasts, fire hall rentals and other fundraising activities.

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