Former Fulton County veterans groups official gets 2 to 6 years

Courtroom packed for sentencing of Ralph VanAlstyne, convicted of stealing $186,000.

The man who stole nearly $200,000 from three local veterans groups was sentenced today to two to six years in state prison, in what investigators are calling a severe embezzling sentence.

Ralph VanAlstyne, 63, appeared in Fulton County Court this morning, where a packed house of members of the veterans organizations he stole from awaited his sentence before Judge Richard Giardino.

“He was very remorseful and apologized for what had taken place,” said District Attorney Louise Sira, the prosecutor in the case of People v. Ralph VanAlstyne. “He thanked the court system for treating him with fairness and he was very remorseful and committed to beginning his time and paying everyone back.”

VanAlstyne, the former commander of the VFW in Gloversville, was sentenced for the plea of guilty he entered in June for two counts of third degree grand larceny, a D felony, and one count of second degree grand larceny, a C felony. He began serving his time today.

He is now convicted of stealing approximately $186,000 from the VFW, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans organizations in Fulton County.

He had previously served as VFW quartermaster, financial officer for the legion, and treasurer of the DAV. The positions of authority over the groups allowed him the access and opportunity to systematically steal funds, Sira said following last year’s indictment.

“Statewide, very few embezzlers ever see a jail cell, as the majority of victims want return of the money to be the priority,” said Sira in a news release today. “But it was important to send a clear message on the severe impact these long-term thefts at the hands of one of their own members had on these organizations.”

The Gloversville Police Department, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, the financial crimes unit of the State Police and Fulton County District Attorney’s Office conducted the investigation over a span of two years, which culminated in December 2010 with a hefty indictment.

VanAlstyne, of 11 Almond St., was indicted on 14 counts that accused him of stealing money between 2005 and 2008 from the American Legion Harold Wilmont Post 137, the Bernard W. Kierney Memorial Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2077, and the Fulton County Disabled American Veterans Chapter 122.

The top count in the indictment was for second-degree grand larceny, theft of greater than $50,000, for stealing $57,936 from the DAV.

Other indictments against VanAlstyne included six counts of third-degree grand larceny, or theft of greater than $3,000. He stole $43,173 from the American Legion and $44,784 from the VFW.

VanAlstyne will make scheduled restitution payments, Sira said, a month after his release from prison. She also said he has put a family home up for sale.

“The likelihood of recovering all the money from a man of his age and income is not likely, though,” she said.

A rise in thefts often occurs during tough economic times by volunteers at local charitable organizations, said Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini in a news release today.

“When money is illegally siphoned for personal use, the resulting pain ripples through the communities, families and individuals that depend on the services provided by these organizations,” Sabini said.

“I applaud all parties involved in bringing this matter to a close and look forward to continued collaboration to ensure that New York’s charitable institutions are protected and enjoy the public’s confidence,” he said.

Many local victims of VanAlstyne’s theft dealt with Gloversville police throughout the duration of the investigation.

Police Chief Edgar Beaudin said in a release today that VanAlstyne’s sentence is justly deserved.

“VanAlstyne’s crimes cut deeper than mere financial impact,” he said. “These veterans have suffered shame, embarrassment and betrayal.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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