Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli with Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino Jr. and the Village of Croton-on-Hudson Police Department announced the surrender and arrest of Gerald Munson, a former Croton-On-Hudson Fire Department Chief and a former Croton-On-Hudson Police Officer who most recently served as the Fire Department Treasurer, on charges related to the theft of more than $300,000 from the Fire Department.
He was arraigned this morning in Croton-on-Hudson Village Court before Justice Sam Watkins. Munson was released on his own recognizance and paid $25,000 toward restitution. Munson is charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree as a Crime of Public Corruption, a class B felony, and Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony. He was arraigned early Wednesday before the Village Justice Court.
As Treasurer, the defendant was responsible for maintaining the Fire Department's bank account and financial records despite having no prior qualifications or background in accounting or financial matters. The felony complaint alleges that he used his position as Treasurer for the Croton-On-Hudson Fire Department to steal and conceal his theft of approximately $312,925 from the Fire Department. The money he stole included portions of the so-called "2 Percent Money" paid annually to the Fire Department by New York state in connection with the state's two percent tax on fire insurance. For years, Munson was able to conceal his ongoing theft by altering and manipulating the Department's bank records. Those alterations and manipulations included his underreporting of the amount of "2 Percent Money" received by the Department in order to balance the books and hide what he stole for himself.
In February 2018, members of the Fire Department's internal Audit Committee discovered that Munson had provided them with false 2017 bank statements. When confronted by the Audit Committee, Munson admitted he had created the false statements on his home computer; that he had stolen money from the Department's account for his own personal use; and that he had used the Fire Department's debit card as if it were his own.
Further investigation and analysis conducted jointly by the Village of Croton-on Hudson Police Department, the Westchester County District Attorney's Office and the New York State Comptroller's Office confirmed that between on or about January 2011 and on or about February 2018, the defendant stole approximately $312,925 from the Fire Department. This joint investigation lead to Munson's arrest and felony charges."
"Mr. Munson abused the trust of his community and his fellow volunteer firefighters at the Croton-on-Hudson Fire Department by allegedly stealing over $300,000," DiNapoli said. "I commend Westchester District Attorney Scarpino and the Croton-on-Hudson Police Department for their ongoing work on this case, and remain fully committed to our joint efforts to fight public corruption."
Village of Croton-on-Hudson Police Chief Russel H. Harper said, "When the allegations regarding the alleged misappropriation of Croton-on-Hudson Volunteer Fire Department funds by Gerald Munson were first brought to my attention I immediately instructed the our Police Department Detective Division to initiate an investigation into the allegations and to reach out to the Westchester County District Attorney's Office Public Integrity Bureau as well as the New York State Comptroller's Office.
"It is through this collaborative investigation and effort that we will be able to prosecute the defendant and seek justice for the public as well the members of the Croton-on-Hudson Volunteer Fire Department. I thank Westchester District Attorney Anthony Scarpino and State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli for the collaborative effort of all three agencies throughout this process and investigation."
"Public corruption is a crime that hurts all of us," Scarpino said. "We are proud of this collaboration between our Office, the Village of Croton-on Hudson Police Department and the New York State Comptroller's Office to find the root cause of the misuse of public money and will continue the work needed to prosecute this case in the courts and see that justice is done."
On the two charges, Munson faces a maximum sentence of 25 years and 15 years respectively in state prison. His next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 12, 2018. Assistant District Attorney Brian Fitzgerald, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Westchester District Attorney's Office Investigations Division Public Integrity Bureau, is prosecuting the case.
The charges are merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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.