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Former fire official reaches plea deal on $1 million embezzlement

After an investigation by state and federal authorities that lasted for nearly a year, a former official with the Patterson Fire Department has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors over embezzlement and income tax fraud.

The 46-year-old man admitted to stealing over $1 when he served as treasurer for the Patterson FD -- a job to which he was appointed in 2013. He reportedly funneled some money to two personal businesses and used other funds to pay personal expenses, including his mortgage, and to take vacations.

The plea deal was announced by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, on Nov. 2.

Authorities say that the man embezzled the money by writing over 130 fraudulent checks between late 2013 and October of last year. He also submitted fraudulent corporate and personal tax returns.

An official with the state comptroller's office said that the man "was living the lavish life on the public dime." The money he stole, Bharara noted, "was supposed to be used for fighting fires and other department needs."

The Patterson man could be in prison until his sunset years. The wire fraud charge to which he pleaded guilty has a maximum 20-year sentence. The charge of submitting false tax returns could add another three years to his time behind bars. His sentencing is scheduled for next February.

Certainly, those who take money meant for public use and spend it on their own needs are not going to find themselves with many sympathetic ears in the justice system. However, with sound legal advice, they may be able to work with prosecutors to reach an agreement that will work for everyone.

Source: The Journal News, "Ex-Patterson FD treasurer admits stealing $1M," Christopher J. Eberhart, Nov. 02, 2016

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