The city’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post is on the brink of bankruptcy from having to pay fines and penalties following malfeasance by its former treasurer and commander.
Officers with VFW Bernard Kearney Memorial Post 2077, at 20 Third Ave., will decide early next month whether to disband and turn over its operations to the state VFW, said post Commander Kevin Jones.
“I think it is becoming a more real possibility every day,” Jones said. “It is a function of cash flow and the payment of bills. We are not making enough income to cover our expenses.”
If the local post dissolves, the state VFW will take over the organization’s Third Avenue building, Jones said. “They take over everything and the VFW post goes out of business. The members remain members and can go to another post,” he said.
The nearest VFW post is in Johnstown.
The Gloversville VFW post has been in existence for at least 50 years, Jones said. It has about 300 members, but the majority are no longer active. The post has a mortgage on the building and pays utilities. It also operates a canteen and barroom for members there.
The VFW’s troubles stem from actions by former treasurer and commander Ralph VanAlstyne Sr. He pleaded guilty to felony grand larceny in Fulton County Court last November, admitting to stealing more than $70,000 from the local VFW’s bell jar gambling operations. He also pleaded guilty to two additional grand larceny charges in the same court appearance for stealing from two other Gloversville organizations with which he was affiliated: the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 122, from which he stole $65,679; and the American Legion Harold Wilmont Post 137, from which he stole $50,917.
His pleas were in full satisfaction of a 14-count indictment alleging that he stole at least $200,000 from the three organizations between January 2005 and December 2008.
VanAlstyne could have faced 15 years in prison on the most serious count if convicted. Instead, he will serve two to six years in state prison under the plea agreement.
Jones said that during VanAlstyne’s tenure, the former commander failed to maintain workers’ compensation and disability insurance and failed to pay taxes to the state Racing and Wagering Board, taxes to the state Department of Taxation and Finance and bills submitted by vendors.
Jones said that since VanAlstyne’s conviction, the VFW has “worked through a tremendous amount of mess and financials, through unpaid bills, workers’ compensation and unemployment [penalties]. We are almost at a point where we have cleaned up the mess, but we are almost out of money.”
As part of his plea deal, Van-
Alstyne was supposed to bring $36,000 to court on the day of his sentencing. The money would have been distributed equally to the three organizations. “He was attempting to bargain for less prison, but he was unable to do so,” said Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira.
When he failed to bring the money, he received a “stiff sentence,” Sira said.
“Statewide, people who embezzle rarely see a jail cell, let alone state prison,” she said. “We sought the stiff penalty because of the agencies involved and the scope of the theft.”
Sira said VanAlstyne is supposed to pay $400 to $500 per month to the organizations after he is released from prison.
“It is not likely he will pay after he is released. I have encouraged all three of the entities to pursue civil remedies,” she said.
Some have sued a bank that handled check transactions involving VanAlstyne; the bank denies wrongdoing.
Jones said the VFW does not expect to see any restitution during VanAlstyne’s incarceration but had hoped he would make the $12,000 payment at his sentencing, as the money would have helped the organization pay fines and bills.
Sira said authorities were unable to recover any of the money VanAlstyne stole from the organizations.
“He had liquidated many of the assets and a lot of it went to third parties. He spent it on himself and his family,” she said.
Authorities have placed a $36,000 lien on the 11 Almond St. home VanAlstyne once owned. He transferred its title several years ago to his daughter.
Officials with the DAV and American Legion posts were not available for comment for this story.