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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 Indictment of Former West Ghent Volunteer Fire Company Treasurer for Allegedly Embezzling Fire Company Money

West Ghent Fire Company Treasurer Charged With Using Over $55K From Fire Company's Bank Accounts and Credit Card for Personal Use

April 9, 2017

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and arraignment of Gail E. Cesternino (46), for allegedly embezzling over $55,000 from the West Ghent Volunteer Fire Company. An indictment unsealed today charges Cesternino with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and thirteen counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree.

"Volunteer fire companies are created to protect the public," State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. "But Gail Cesternino, then West Ghent's VFC secretary/treasurer, allegedly fleeced her neighbors of more than $55,000. Thankfully, our investigators and auditors exposed her wrongdoing and brought her to justice under my Operation Integrity partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman."

"It is reprehensible to steal from a local fire company," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Communities across New York rely on Volunteer Fire Companies to serve the public and provide safety, and we will not tolerate anyone who undermines their financial integrity."

According to the Indictment and papers filed in court today, Cesternino is alleged to have used her position as the Fire Company's Treasurer to regularly withdraw cash, issue herself checks and charge personal expenses on the Fire Company's credit card, including purchases for her personal sales business.

Today's indictment is the result of an investigation conducted by the State Comptroller's Office Division of Investigations and the Attorney General's Public Integrity Bureau. This case is the latest joint investigation under the Operation Integrity partnership of the Attorney General and Comptroller, which to date has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.

The Comptroller's investigation was conducted by the Comptroller's Division of Investigations working with the Division of Local Government and School Accountability.

Assistant Attorney General Bridget Holohan Scally of the Attorney General's Public Integrity Bureau is prosecuting this case under the supervision of Public Integrity Bureau Chief Daniel Cort and Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz.

This matter was investigated by the State Comptroller's Division of Investigations, along with Mark Spencer of the Attorney General's Investigators Bureau, which is led by Deputy Chief Antoine Karam and Chief Dominick Zarrella. Legal Analyst Sara Pogorzelski worked on the matter as well. The charges against Cesternino are merely accusations and she is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

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.