Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the guilty plea of Jean Noel, the former Director of the Putnam County Department of Consumer Affairs, for stealing money from Putnam County. Ms. Noel was arrested after a joint investigation by the State Police, the Office of the New York State Comptroller, and the Attorney General’s Office revealed Ms. Noel’s theft of cash that she accepted from local contractors to satisfy county-issued fines. Ms. Noel today entered a guilty plea before the Honorable Joseph J. Spofford, Jr. in Carmel Town Court to the class “A” misdemeanor charge of Petit Larceny under Penal Law § 155.25. As part of a plea agreement, Ms. Noel agreed to terminate her employment with Putnam County, pay restitution, and was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge.
“As our audit and investigation revealed, Ms. Noel abused her position to steal fines paid to Putnam County," said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “Whenever we uncover fraud, we will work with law enforcement across the state to hold people accountable and recoup the public’s money. I thank the New York State Police and Attorney General Schneiderman for following up on our findings.”
“Public service should never be about private gain,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “When public officials abuse their position for financial gain, there will be consequences. Since 2011, my office has successfully prosecuted dozens of officials and their cronies from both political parties and we will continue to fight to clean up state and local government.”
“This arrest should serve as a reminder that those who choose to abuse their public position will be brought to justice,” said Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico. “This former Director took money not only from taxpayers, but also from businesses that were intent on paying a fine and righting a wrong. The State Police will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to end these types of fraudulent practices and hold accountable those who mistakenly think they can get away with these schemes.”
Over a period of at least two years the defendant illegally obtained $4,575 in cash payments from contractors intended to satisfy county-issued fines. The fines included payments made by contractors for conducting various business operations in Putnam County without an appropriate county-issued license. Discrepancies were identified when State Comptroller DiNapoli commenced an audit and investigation in 2014.
The defendant has repaid $4,300 and owes another $275 to fully satisfy restitution. The defendant will also pay back a portion of her salary.
This case is the latest investigation conducted as part of Operation Integrity, a joint partnership between the New York State Attorney General and New York State Comptroller to root out waste and abuse in state government. To date, the initiative has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $9 million in restitution to the state.
The investigation was handled by Investigator Dennis Churns. The Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella, who is assisted by Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam.
The investigation was conducted by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s Division of Investigations and Division of Local Government and School Accountability along with the New York State Police, Troop K and Investigator Dennis Churns, who handled the case for the Attorney General’s office.
The Attorney General’s Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella, who is assisted by Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam.
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.
Review prior cases at http://www.osc.state.ny.us/investigations/index.htm.