The chairman of the Wallkill Fire District’s Board of Fire Commissioners was charged this morning with stealing nearly $240,000 in a scam that spanned three years, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright announced. Michael Denardo, 38, of Wallkill, is accused of conning a board member into signing blank checks which he later cashed for personal use. He was arraigned this morning in Shawangunk Town Court.
“This fire district literally gave Mr. Denardo blank checks which he used to support his lifestyle instead of the taxpayers he was elected to serve,” DiNapoli said. “What this fire district needed was checks and balances, not blind faith in Mr. Denardo. Thanks to the hard work of my office and District Attorney Carnright, this alleged swindler will be held accountable.”
“Mr. DiNapoli continues to be one of our strongest partners in fighting local corruption,” Carnright said. Denardo, who is also a state correction officer, is expected to be charged with grand larceny in the second degree (class C felony), falsifying business records in the first degree (class E felony), money laundering in the second degree (class C felony), and five counts of misdemeanor criminal tax fraud. The Comptroller’s office is currently completing a full audit of the fire district, which serves about 3,000 residents in Ulster County.
Denardo’s blank-check scheme began shortly after the Wallkill Fire District hired an architect to draft plans for a firehouse expansion. Denardo obtained blank, co-signed checks from a fellow board member for what he claimed were architect payments, then pocketed $228,871. When asked for proof, Denardo created fake bills. He also forged a travel agent invoice to inflate reimbursement for a trip to New Orleans and submitted $3,325 for other phony expenses.
The thefts began as early as 2010 and continued through 2013, according to the joint investigation. Denardo laundered the checks through his wife’s account, then pocketed the money.
Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and fraud and encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at [email protected], or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.