Attorney General Letitia James and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the sentencing of the former City of Mount Vernon Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari for abusing his position as a public official to engage in a scheme that defrauded the Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply of more than $300,000 to pay the personal legal expenses of the former Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas and a public relations firm.
Today in Westchester County Supreme Court, Porcari was sentenced to 1-3 years in prison. However, Judge David Zuckerman has temporarily stayed the execution of Porcari’s sentence. A status hearing is scheduled for November 18, 2020.
“Any public official who lies, cheats, or defrauds New Yorkers must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said Attorney General James. “New York’s public servants have a responsibility to serve with transparency, integrity, and respect for the state and all of its people. I thank Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for his partnership and continued unwavering commitment to rooting out corruption in all its forms.”
“Mr. Porcari betrayed the people of Mount Vernon and violated his oaths as a public servant and attorney. Now, he faces the consequences of his actions,” said Comptroller DiNapoli. “I thank Attorney General James for holding Mr. Porcari accountable and her continued partnership in fighting public corruption across the state.”
On December 16, 2019, a Westchester County jury found Porcari guilty of:
- Corrupting the Government in the First Degree (B felony);
- Grand Larceny in the Second Degree as a Crime of Public Corruption (B felony);
- Defrauding the Government (E felony);
- Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (E felony) – 3 Counts; and
- Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree (A misdemeanor) – 1 Count.
According to the testimony and evidence presented at trial, Porcari misappropriated funds from the city of Mount Vernon’s Board of Water Supply to pay law firms for the personal defense of former Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas in criminal proceedings, as well as a public relations firm hired at the time of Thomas’ arrest in March 2018.
Approval for the rate of payment for one of the law firms and the public relations firm was sought from the city’s Board of Estimate and Contract on multiple dates in April and May of 2018, but was never obtained. Instead, Porcari arranged for payments from the funds from the Board of Water Supply, which consists of money paid by customers for their use of water and whose use is limited by state and local law to Board of Water Supply purposes. The scheme continued into the fall of 2018 with payments from the Board of Water Supply to a second firm later retained for Thomas’s defense. To further the scheme, Porcari submitted memorandums to the Board of Water Supply for “emergency” payments to the law firms, including memorandums containing false statements.
Since 2011, the Attorney General and State Comptroller offices have worked together to fight corruption through their Joint Task Force on Public Integrity. They have brought charges against dozens of individuals implicated in public corruption schemes around the state — resulting in the return of more than $11 million in restitution to taxpayers through these convictions. Also assisting in the investigation for the Attorney General was Legal Support Analyst Rebecca Saber.
The investigation was handled by Investigator Angel LaPorte, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Supervising Investigator Sylvia Rivera, and the overall supervision of Investigation Division Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes. Trial presentation assistance was provided by IT Specialist Matthew Rosenberg. Assisting in the investigation and providing forensic auditing analysis was Forensic Auditor Andre Hartley, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Auditor Sandy Bizzarro. Also assisting for the attorney general was Legal Support Analyst Rebecca Saber.
The Comptroller’s investigation was handled by Comptroller DiNapoli’s Division of Investigations.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Meagan Powers and Special Counsel Brian Weinberg of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Travis Hill. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jose Maldonado and supervised by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
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, 8th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.