Albany County

Cohoes mayor admits campaign finance fraud

Morse faces up to 20 years in prison on federal wire fraud charge
Shawn M. Morse
Shawn M. Morse

COHOES — The mayor of Cohoes admitted in federal court Tuesday that he committed election finance fraud.

Shawn Morse, 52, faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the single count of wire fraud.

U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and James N. Hendricks, FBI special agent in charge in Albany, said Morse used campaign contributions for his personal benefit.

They said in making his plea, Morse admitted that he and his campaign treasurer, Ralph Signoracci, sought and received contributions to his political committee, the “Friends of Shawn Morse,” and to a political action committee. In total, Morse used $12,250 in political contributions from at least 10 people to pay personal expenses at hotels, restaurants and retailers, they said.

Signoracci, prosecutors said, masked the purpose of the fraudulent expenditures by reporting them falsely or not at all on campaign disclosure reports.

Signoracci pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on March 7.

Morse will be sentenced Dec. 10 by U.S. District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy.

An official biography on the Cohoes city website indicates that Morse became a Cohoes firefighter in 1989. He served three terms representing the city in the Albany County Legislature and was elected mayor in 2015.

It also indicates Morse has three children and a wife. After allegations of domestic violence last year, politicians from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on down called for Morse to resign. He denied the allegations and remained in office.

“Public trust must be something that is cherished by all who serve in positions of public office,” Hendricks said in a news release Tuesday. “Sadly, Mr. Morse abused his position for personal gain. Today’s plea announcement should send a clear signal that the FBI will vigorously investigate any public official who attempts to use their position to enrich themselves.”

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