New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the conviction and sentencing of Robert J. Schusteritsch, 71, a resident of the state of Florida, for the crimes of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, and Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor, in Albany County Court.
Schusteritsch’s conviction comes after a joint investigation by the Office of the Comptroller and the Attorney General’s Office, which revealed that Schusteritsch stole over $180,000 in pension benefits issued by the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System to his deceased brother, Martin Petschauer, between July 2008 and September 2015.
"Today’s sentencing of Mr. Schusteritsch proves once again that stealing from New York State's pension system is risky business," said State Comptroller DiNapoli. "My office will continue to thwart pension thieves and protect our New York State & Local Retirement System in partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman."
“Those who illegally obtain pension funds intended for someone else do so at the expense of hardworking New Yorkers who rely on their pension for a secure retirement,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Comptroller DiNapoli and I will continue our joint efforts to root out pension system theft and hold those responsible accountable.”
According to the Comptroller and Attorney General’s offices, Petschauer was a New York State pensioner who retired as Chief of the Pooling and Audit Review Section of the New York Metro Milk Marketing Area in approximately 1986. He passed away on July 9, 2008. At the time of Petschauer’s death, his pension benefits were being direct deposited into a bank account held in a trust for the benefit of Petschauer; Schusteritsch was the sole trustee for his brother and had exclusive access to the bank account.
When Petschauer died, Schusteritsch concealed his brother’s death from the bank and the Retirement System and kept the trust account open to maintain the direct deposits. He then routinely accessed the pension deposits and spent the money for his own benefit. All told, Schusteritsch stole over $180,000 in pension benefits until the Retirement System discovered Petschauer’s death in October 2015. Further, when the Retirement System learned of Petschauer’s death and stopped paying benefits into the trust account, Schusteritsch called the Retirement System’s call center on November 2, 2015, pretended he was Petschauer, and asserted that he was not actually dead, in an effort to maintain eligibility for the pension benefits.
This past summer, Schusteritsch was arrested in his home state of Florida and transported to Albany County, where he was arraigned on an indictment charging him with the crimes of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, and Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, a class A misdemeanor. On September 16, 2016, Schusteritsch pleaded guilty before Hon. Peter A. Lynch, Albany County Court, to the entire indictment.
Today, Schusteritsch was sentenced by the Hon. Peter A. Lynch to six months in jail and five years’ probation, and signed a confession of judgment in the amount of $180,140.45 in favor of the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System.
The case is the latest joint investigation under the Operation Integrity partnership of the Comptroller and Attorney General, which to date has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.
Comptroller DiNapoli and Attorney General Schneiderman thanked the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office in Florida for their assistance.
The Comptroller’s investigation was handled by the Division of Investigations working with the New York State and Local Retirement System.
The case was prosecuted 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 Chief Stephanie Swenton.
The Attorney General’s investigation was conducted by Investigator Samuel Scotellaro, III and Deputy Chief Antoine Karam. Forensic accounting was performed by Meaghan Scovello, Associate Auditor. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella. The Forensic Audit Section is led by Chief Auditor Edward J. Keegan.
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.
For access to state and local government spending and more than 50,000 state contracts, visit www.openbooknewyork.com. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote openness in government and provide taxpayers with better access to the financial workings of government.