Former Town of Halfmoon Supervisor Melinda Wormuth pled guilty today to two felony counts charging her with extortion and making a false statement before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe in federal court in Albany, announced by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli with United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian and Andrew W. Vale, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation along with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“Ms. Wormuth seemed oblivious to the requirements of public service, the first of which is honesty,” State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. “I hope her case serves as an example to any public official who might put their desires before the public good. I thank United States Attorney Richard Hartunian, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their partnership with us and their dedication to eliminating public corruption.”
The charges are the result of an investigation by the Federal-State Anti-Corruption Task Force that includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New York Attorney General’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the New York Comptroller’s Office, and others. U.S. Attorney Hartunian thanked the FBI, the NYS Attorney General’s office, and the NYS Comptroller’s Office for their close collaboration and assistance in the investigation and prosecution of this case.
“The defendant accepted money for taking official actions, and then lied to federal agents by claiming she had obtained prior approval for her corrupt conduct,” said United States Attorney Hartunian. “This is yet another instance of an elected official who put her own interest ahead of the public’s. That is unacceptable at any level of government, whether in our state Capitol or in the counties and towns within the Northern District of New York.”
“Ms. Wormuth chose to betray the public’s trust for personal gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Andrew W. Vale. “Such actions have a real and negative impact on our system of government, and the FBI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate corruption at all levels of government.”
“Today’s guilty plea makes it clear that public officials who violate the law by misusing campaign funds will be held accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Public officials must be held to the highest ethical standards and I’m proud to continue working with partners in government to root out public corruption across New York State.”
During the plea hearing, Melinda Wormuth admitted that she accepted money in return for her official actions. Specifically, she admitted that she received $7,500 in cash, which was characterized as “consulting fees,” in return for using her official position as Town Supervisor and as a member of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors to lobby for the legalization of professional Mixed Martial Arts (“MMA”). Between April 10, 2013 and August 10, 2013, Wormuth sent letters on her official letterhead as Supervisor of Halfmoon and as a Board Member of the County Board of Supervisors to state legislators in New York, requesting legislative action in favor of professional MMA. Wormuth performed no legitimate consulting work for this cash, and she accepted this cash understanding that she was expected to use her official position to promote legislative action in favor of professional MMA.
Wormuth also admitted that she lied to FBI agents during an interview on August 7, 2013. Specifically, Wormuth stated that she had consulted with “K.T.,” a former Town Justice in Saratoga County, to obtain approval for her actions before taking the payments. This statement was false because she had not consulted with “K.T.”
Wormuth faces a sentence of up to 12 months and one day of imprisonment, a fine of $7,500.00, and forfeiture in the amount of $5,500.00. Sentencing is scheduled for December 10, 2015, in Albany, New York.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ransom Reynolds and Jeffrey Coffman. Former Assistant United States Attorney John Duncan also worked on the prosecution.
Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption 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.