Former Charlton Fire District secretary-treasurer Virginia DeCapria misappropriated as much as $500,000 in taxpayer funds over a six-year period, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said today.
State police arrested DeCapria two weeks ago for felony second-degree grand larceny, but details of the alleged crime weren’t released until today, when they came out as part of a new comptroller’s audit of the fire district.
DiNapoli said DeCapria, who was responsible for fire district finances from 2005 to 2010, improperly paid herself $316,670 over that time. She is also accused of using fire district credit cards to buy dozens of personal items including backyard patio bricks, a washer-dryer, refrigerator, furniture and electronic equipment.
“This treasurer went shopping at taxpayer expense with no one minding the store. There must be zero tolerance for such an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars,” DiNapoli said.
The comptroller’s office began an investigation last summer after doing a “risk audit” requested by town officials. That initial evaluation quickly determined DeCapria was writing checks to herself, DiNapoli said, leading to his office conducting a full audit.
DeCapria, 50, of Charlton, is charged with four felony counts of grand larceny and one felony count of falsifying business records.
She has pleaded innocent to the charges.
Her attorney, Terence Kindlon of Albany, declined comment on the audit until he had read it.
“I see nothing at this point that tells me she’s guilty of anything,” Kindlon said.
According to DiNapoli, there was a lack of internal financial controls within the volunteer fire district that allowed the alleged thefts to occur.
Charlton Fire District attorney Terence Hannigan said new finance review procedures have been instituted to prevent any recurrence, and several members of the five-member board of fire commissioners have changed.
DeCapria’s husband, Dean DeCapria, was the fire chief throughout the time the alleged thefts occurred, but District Attorney James A. Murphy said there’s no evidence he knew about his wife’s alleged actions.
“He has been fully cooperative with the state police,” Murphy said. ” She was the financial person in the household.”
Murphy said the alleged thefts began small, but grew to the point where DeCapria allegedly improperly paid herself $158,187 in 2010, more than 50 percent of that year’s fire district tax levy.
The fire commissioners fired DeCapria in January 2011, during the comptroller’s audit.
Charlton Supervisor Alan Grattidge first brought concerns to the state comptroller’s office last year after being unsatisfied with the response to his requests for budget details from district officials.
“Probably the last two budgets they submitted had requests I thought were extravagant in the personnel services part of the budget,” Grattidge said.
DeCapria is currently free without bail pending presentation of the case to a grand jury.
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