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NEWS from the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Contact: Press Office 518-474-4015

Comptroller DiNapoli and A.G. Schneiderman Announce Charges Against Georgia Resident for Stealing Over $200K in NYS Pension Benefits

Defendant Allegedly Stole Pension Benefits Issued to His Deceased Mother from March 2009 – December 2013

June 22, 2015

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the unsealing of a one-count indictment charging Richard L. Cook III, 57, a resident of Atlanta, Ga., with the crime of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, in Albany County Court. Cook is charged with stealing over $200,000 in pension payments from the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System paid to his deceased mother, Yvonne Powell, a New York State pensioner who died in 2009.

“Mr. Cook allegedly thought he could get away with defrauding the state retirement system of over $200,000. He was mistaken,” Comptroller DiNapoli said. “I will continue to protect our retirement system from fraud, whether the perpetrators are in New York or Atlanta, Georgia, where Mr. Cook lives. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his hard work and partnership in combating corruption across the state.”

“Theft from our state’s pension system is detrimental to all New York taxpayers and robs retirees who rely on their hard-earned pensions,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Through our Operation Integrity partnership, Comptroller DiNapoli and I will continue working tirelessly to root out and prosecute those who commit pension fraud, and protect taxpayer dollars.”

According to the prosecution, Cook, who served as executor to his mother’s estate, failed to notify the Retirement System of Powell’s death. Instead, authorities allege, Cook routinely accessed the pension funds deposited into a joint account he had held with his mother and liquidated approximately $3,500 per month in pension benefits from March 2009 through December 2013. All told, the Attorney General’s and Comptroller’s Office allege that Cook stole over $200,000.00 in pension benefits in that time period.

The case is the latest joint investigation under the Operation Integrity partnership between the Comptroller and Attorney General, which has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution. In 2015 alone, the collaboration has resulted in a prison sentence for a Florida woman who stole $100,000 from the pension system and the indictments of two New Jersey residents for allegedly defrauding the system of over $100,000 each.

Cook was arrested by agents of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia, and extradited to Albany County to face the indictment. Cook was arraigned Friday on the indictment before Judge Peter Lynch in Albany County Court, and entered a plea of not guilty. Bail was set at $50,000, and he was remanded in lieu of posting.

The charges are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendant faces up to fifteen years in state prison.

Comptroller DiNapoli and Attorney General Schneiderman thank the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia for their assistance.

The joint investigation was conducted with the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations.

The Attorney General’s investigation was conducted by Investigator Dennis Churns and Deputy Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin S. Clark of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary T. Fishman and Deputy Bureau Chiefs Stephanie Swenton and Meryl Lutsky. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.