Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the sentencing of Gail E. Cesternino, the former West Ghent Volunteer Fire Company treasurer, for embezzling fire company money to bankroll her personal business. Cesternino was sentenced to 30 days in jail followed by five years’ probation, and ordered to pay $58,000 in restitution and a $5,000 fine.
Cesternino, 46, was sentenced by the Honorable Richard M. Koweek following her guilty plea to Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (an E felony) in full satisfaction of the indictment.
"Ms. Cesternino stole fire company funds to bankroll her private cookware business," State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. "After our auditors and investigators exposed the crime, she admitted her wrongdoing and will repay those funds."
"Volunteer firefighters bravely serve our communities – and it’s reprehensible that someone would pocket the very funds that enable them to do their lifesaving work," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "We will continue working to protect the funds of volunteer fire companies, so that in turn, firefighters may continue protecting our communities."
Cesternino 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.
This guilty plea is the result of a joint investigation conducted by the State Comptroller’s Division of Investigations and the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau. This case is the latest joint investigation under Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli’s Operation Integrity partnership, which to date has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.
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 Comptroller’s investigation was conducted by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations working with the Division of Local Government and School Accountability.
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, public authority financial data and information on 135,000 state contracts, visit Open Book New York. The easy-to-use website was created by DiNapoli to promote transparency in government and provide taxpayers with better access to financial data.