Former Wallkill Fire District board chair Michael Denardo was sentenced in Ulster County Court for stealing nearly $240,000 from the district, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced.
“This was a shameful crime of someone sworn to protect the public,” DiNapoli said. “It is also a warning to fire district officials throughout New York: Always safeguard your assets with checks and balances. I thank District Attorney Carnright for bringing Mr. Denardo to justice and helping us recoup the stolen funds.”
Denardo, 39, of Wallkill, was sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison and must pay $239,622 restitution. His three-year scam was initially revealed in an audit and investigation by DiNapoli’s office, which found that Denardo convinced the treasurer to give him blank checks and another board member to sign them. He deposited the checks, laundered the money through his wife’s account and submitted fake bills to the district.
According to the State Comptoller’s report, “The Wallkill Board of Fire Commissioners did not establish adequate internal controls over the cash disbursements process. As a result, 12 checks totaling $241,893 were written to the chair’s wife, of which $239,622 was inappropriate. The chair represented $228,871 of this amount as reimbursement for payments to the District’s contracted architect, which neither the Chair nor his wife had made. To obtain reimbursement, the Chair submitted falsified invoices and supporting documentation for nonexistent architectural services, business trip expenses and permits that were never purchased. In addition, the District’s credit card was used to make $14,910 in questionable purchases, including gas, cigarettes, groceries and other personal items.”
The Comptroller’s report stated that the misappropriation of funds occurred because the Chair was able to circumvent the Treasurer’s duties. The Chair requested blank checks from the Treasurer for the purpose of paying the Architect and told the Treasurer he would provide the invoices later. After the Treasurer provided the blank checks, the Chair asked the Vice Chair to sign them.
“I thank the Comptroller and his staff for their diligent work on this case,” District Attorney Holley Carnright said. “Comptroller DiNapoli is a valued partner in our efforts to combat fraud crimes in Ulster County.”
Denardo pleaded guilty in September to grand larceny in the third degree, a class D felony, and three counts of criminal tax fraud in the fifth degree, a misdemeanor.