State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka, and the New York State Police today announced the indictment of former Chatham Rescue Squad Business Manager Sara Thorne, of Forest City, North Carolina, for allegedly stealing more than $17,000 from the rescue squad.
“Thorne allegedly abused her position to divert thousands of dollars meant to protect her community,” DiNapoli said. “Thanks to my ongoing partnership with District Attorney Czajka and the New York State Police, she is now brought to justice.”
“We appreciate the diligence and hard work of the State Comptroller’s Office in this complex financial investigation,” Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka said. “Comptroller DiNapoli and his skilled and diligent team of investigators and auditors have uncovered several criminal schemes in Columbia County over the last several years. This is only the latest.”
“I commend the Comptroller and DA’s offices, and our State Police investigators for their stellar work in exposing this fraud,” Acting New York State Police Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli said. “The arrest of this individual sends a strong message that we will not tolerate such corruption. When a public servant seeks to use their position to profit at the expense of the taxpayers and the local community, they will be held accountable for their crimes and prosecuted appropriately.”
Thorne provided administrative support for the Chatham Rescue Squad for twenty years until her employment was terminated in 2022. Her final position was as Business Manager, where she was the sole officer responsible for payroll, among other duties. While originally based in Columbia County, Thorne was allowed to work remotely from North Carolina since 2015 with an annual salary topping $100,000.
From 2017 to 2019, Thorne was paid annual bonuses of $5,000 to $6,500 by the squad’s Board of Directors. In addition to these bonuses, investigators found Thorne additionally paid herself $9,528 to cover the associated tax liabilities for those payments. Investigators found Thorne cashed out a combined 160 hours of leave in 2019 without board approval or knowledge, paying herself an additional $6,481.
Thorne had a personal credit card she used for rescue squad purchases. Rather than use the card for official business or specific charges, Thorne used this card for personal purchases at a grocery store and a restaurant. Thorne also purchased travel for her husband and upgrades to first class travel for herself. Thorne paid this credit card bill with rescue squad funds. She never presented these expenses to the board for approval or provided bank statements for review.
When DiNapoli’s investigators questioned Thorne about invoices and receipts for her credit card expenses, Thorne provided altered documents to hide the fact that the rescue squad had paid for her husband’s travel. In total, Thorne used $1,068 in squad funds to pay for these expenses.
Thorne, 57, was charged with two counts of Grand Larceny (3rd degree, D Felony), two counts of Falsifying Business Records (1st degree, E Felony) and three counts of Petit Larceny (A Misdemeanor).
She was arraigned today before Columbia County Court Judge Jonathan D. Nichols and is due back in court on July 24, 2023.
The charges filed in this case are merely accusations and the defendant 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 https://www.osc.state.ny.us/investigations, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 8th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.