A former Village clerk in Oswego County learned her punishment for stealing $117,000 from the community where she kept the books.
Margaret Bailey will spend the next two to six years in state prison. In Oswego County Court Monday morning, Bailey learned that when she is released she must pay $1,000 per month back to the Town of Albion.
It was June of last year when Albion absorbed the very tiny village of Altmar - home to 400 people - where Bailey served as the clerk.
When the dissolution process started in March 2013, town officials raised an alarm after noticing something just wasn't quite right.
An audit, conducted by the State Comptroller's Office, uncovered Bailey used various village accounts to write checks to herself to cover personal expenses. She also doubled her salary without permission, and stole upwards of $9,000 from property tax payments, permit fees, and more. According to the comptroller's office, this all happened over a four-year period, from June 2009 through May 2013.
According to the audit, Bailey misappropriated the equivalent of 67 percent of Altmar's real property tax levy during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and 66 percent of the levy in 2012-2013.
"It was almost unimaginable when I heard the figure of $117,000 being stolen from the Village of Altmar over a few short years." Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes spoke about his disgust at a press conference with the Comptroller's Office Monday morning.
"I grew up in that area. I know it's not a very big area and the people there work hard to obtain every dollar they have. The thought of someone in a position of trust - who is respected by the community - deceiving her neighbors and the community for such a period of time and such an amount is just astonishing and heartbreaking."
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says he sees this sort of thing happen too frequently, especially when there is not a system of checks and balances in place.
"It doesn't matter whether it's a small community, or a large community," DiNapoli said.
If there isn't a procedure in place, he says people are more inclined to try to get away with something.
"They write the first check, no one sees it. They write the second. Before you know it - In this case, it adds up to $117,000," DiNapoli said.
DiNapoli did make sure to point out such a system typically is more difficult to establish in smaller communities, where relationships often go back years, and there are various levels of trust. He encourages neighbors to speak up if they think something is askew.
"If something doesn't smell right, reach out. Reach out to the District Attorney's Office, to the State Police, to the Comptroller's Office, we will take a look at any situation considered to be not right. As we found out in this case, something was very very wrong," DiNapoli said.