Public Funds were Allegedly Used Unlawfully to Pay for Criminal Defense of Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas and Public Relations Firm
WESTCHESTER – New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the arrest and indictment of the City of Mount Vernon Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari for abusing his position as a public official by engaging in a scheme that defrauded the Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply of $365,000 to pay the personal legal expenses of the Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas and a public relations firm.
“New York has zero tolerance for those who cheat taxpayers, commit fraud, or violate the public trust,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “My office is committed to rooting out corruption and bringing bad actors to justice at every level of government and in every corner of this state. Working closely with Comptroller DiNapoli, we will continue to diligently pursue public integrity issues so that the people of New York get the good government that they deserve.”
“Mr. Porcari allegedly violated both his duty as a public servant and as an attorney by diverting public money and falsifying records” said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “I will continue to partner with Attorney General Letitia James to expose corruption and protect taxpayer funds.”
Porcari is charged with one count of Corrupting the Government in the First Degree and one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree as a crime of Public Corruption, both class B felonies, as well as one count of Defrauding the Government and four counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, all class E felonies.
According to documents filed with the Westchester County Court, Porcari allegedly misappropriated funds from the City of Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply to pay law firms for the personal defense of Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas in criminal proceedings, as well as a public relations firm hired at the time of Thomas’s 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 allegedly 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 allegedly 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 allegedly submitted memorandums to the Board of Water Supply for “emergency” payments to the law firms, including memorandums containing false statements.
Porcari was arraigned in Westchester County Court in White Plains, New York, before Judge David Zuckerman on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The Defendant was ordered to surrender his passport and was released on his own recognizance. The case was adjourned to June 5, 2019. If convicted on the top charge, the defendant faces a maximum penalty of eight and a third to twenty-five years in state prison.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
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.
The Attorney General thanks the Office of the State Comptroller’s Division of Investigations for their assistance in this investigation.
The investigation was handled by Investigator Angel LaPorte, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator John McManus and Supervising Investigator Sylvia Rivera. Assisting in the investigation and providing forensic auditing analysis was Forensic Auditor Andre Hartley, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Auditor Sandy Bizzarro and Forensic Audit Section Chief Edward J. Keegan Jr. Also assisting in the investigation were Analysts Katharine Litka and Rebecca Saber.
The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Meagan Powers and Special Counsel Brian Weinberg of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jose Maldonado.