Saratoga County

Charlton fire official accused of $400K theft

The former treasurer of the Charlton Volunteer Fire Department was charged with second-degree grand
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The former treasurer of the Charlton Volunteer Fire Department was charged with second-degree grand larceny Monday, accused of embezzling about $400,000 from the department over about six years.

Virginia DeCapria was charged with larceny and a number of other felonies, according to the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office.

The state Comptroller’s Office began an investigation into the fire department’s finances last winter.

In the wake that investigation, fire department attorney Terry Hannigan said, the department’s board of commissioners suspended DeCapria and ultimately terminated her on Jan. 11, 2011. He said DeCapria became treasurer in 2005 after previously serving as the secretary for the department.

“Based upon preliminary information the board of fire commissioners has received concerning the audit, we believe the amount involved is in the vicinity of $400,000,” Hannigan said.

“When the board became aware there was a problem they took action and have been working closely with the office of the State Comptroller,” he said.

He said the information the department has seen indicates that a majority of the theft occurred in 2009 and 2010 and that there is no reason to suspect anyone else was involved. With a yearly budget of around $300,000, the total allegedly taken by DeCapria would represent almost 25 percent of their budget during her tenure.

Hannigan said the crime most likely was able to occur because the board had trusted DeCapria and hadn’t properly kept tabs on the department’s resources. “Unfortunately, there was a lack of oversight,” he said.

Hannigan said almost the entire board from 2010 has been replaced. A new treasurer has been brought on and the department has overhauled its accounting procedures. “[We’ve] built in some new checks and balances for the review of district expenditures,” Hannigan said. “It’s not going to happen again in Charlton.”

Town Supervisor Alan Grattidge said this alleged crime represents a major concern for the taxpayers of Charlton, who fund the fire district’s operations. He was more concerned about how the volunteer firefighters would be perceived after this controversy and stressed that they perform a vital service for the community. “I hope there would be no reflection on the volunteers,” Grattidge said.

The final report from the Comptroller’s Office could come out next week, Hannigan said. “It generally doesn’t take as long as it [did] in this case,” he said. “They really did an extensive workup of the department’s records.”

A spokeswoman for the Comptroller’s Office would not comment on the ongoing investigation or even confirm that there was an investigation under way.

Attempts to reach DeCapria and her lawyer on Friday were unsuccessful. The District Attorney’s Office referred all questions to the Comptroller’s Office.

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