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Schneiderman, DiNapoli announce arrest of Town of Niagara Supervisor Steven Richards

by jmaloni

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Fri, Oct 4th 2013 03:40 pm

Joint investigation revealed scheme to "illegally use town equipment and employees" dates back to 2001

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the arrest of Steven C. Richards, the Town of Niagara supervisor, for "engaging in an ongoing scheme to steal town property and use town employees and equipment for his own personal gain." The Joint Task Force on Public Integrity is a cooperative effort between Schneiderman's and DiNapoli's offices to "root out public corruption and maximize the resources of each office." 

"No public official is above the law, least of all one who used a town's property and employees to further his own interests," Schneiderman said. "People elected to positions of trust must be held to the highest standard, and those who abuse an office to line their own pockets will face the full legal consequences of their crimes. I thank Comptroller DiNapoli for working with us to root out corruption in local governments."

"This official treated the Town of Niagara like a private hardware store," DiNapoli said. "He had complete disregard for taxpayer property and must be held accountable for this wrongdoing. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their diligent anti-corruption efforts." 

Richards is charged with one count of defrauding the government, two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree, one count of criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree - all class D felonies - as well as 11 counts of petit larceny and 13 counts of official misconduct - all misdemeanors. He was arraigned at the State Supreme Court in Lockport before State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr., and released on his own recognizance. He faces a maximum of 2 and 1/3 to 7 years in state prison if convicted of the highest charge filed against him. 

According to the indictment, beginning in 2001, Richards engaged in a scheme to steal goods and use town resources for his own personal benefit. The indictment alleges that he directed town employees to pick up and deliver property to his personal business, clean a clogged drain at his personal business, and connect a storm drain at a residential rental property he owns to a state storm water line, all using town equipment while on town time. Moreover, Richards allegedly stole numerous industrial supplies belonging to the town, including paint, a drill, and drain cleaner, and stole a shotgun belonging to the Town Police Department.

Assistant Attorney General Paul F. McCarthy, of the criminal enforcement and financial crimes bureau, is prosecuting the case, under the supervision of public integrity bureau Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz, Chief William E. Schaeffer and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. The prosecutors were assisted by investigations bureau investigator Denise Crawford, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Richard Doyle, Deputy Chief Antoine Karam, and Chief Dominick Zarrella, special agents from the public corruption squad of the Buffalo Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the comptroller's investigations unit.

The charges are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court. Anyone with additional information on this matter or any other public corruption is encouraged to contact the attorney general's office at 1-800-996-4630.

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