The Northern Westchester Examiner

Former Chief Charged with Stealing More Than $300,000 from Croton Fire Dept.

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A former fire chief who once served as a village police officer was charged Wednesday with stealing more than $300,000 from the Croton-on-Hudson Fire Department over a seven-year period.

Gerald Munson, 64, could face a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted of the Class B felony of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree as a Crime of Public Corruption. He was arraigned in Croton-on-Hudson Village Court by Justice Sam Watkins and released on his own recognizance after paying $25,000 toward restitution.

“Mr. Munson abused the trust of his community and his fellow volunteer firefighters at the Croton-on-Hudson Fire Department by allegedly stealing over $300,000,” said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “I commend Westchester District Attorney Scarpino and the Croton-on-Hudson Police Department for their ongoing work on this case, and remain fully committed to our joint efforts to fight public corruption.”

In February 2018, members of the Fire Department’s internal Audit Committee discovered that Munson, who most recently had served as the Fire Department’s treasurer, had provided them with false 2017 bank statements. When confronted by the Audit Committee, Munson, according to DiNapoli, admitted he had created the false statements on his home computer, stolen money from the Department’s account for his own personal use, and used the Fire Department’s debit card as if it were his own.

Further investigation and analysis conducted jointly by the Village of Croton-on Hudson Police Department, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Comptroller’s Office confirmed that between on or about January 2011 and on or about February 2018, the defendant stole approximately $312,925 from the Fire Department. This joint investigation lead to Munson’s arrest and felony charges.

“When the allegations regarding the alleged misappropriation of Croton-on-Hudson Volunteer Fire Department funds by Gerald Munson were first brought to my attention I immediately instructed our Police Department Detective Division to initiate an investigation into the allegations and to reach out to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Bureau as well as the New York State Comptroller’s Office,” said Croton-on-Hudson Police Chief Russel Harper.

“Public corruption is a crime that hurts all of us,” Scarpino said. “We are proud of this collaboration between our Office, the Village of Croton-on Hudson Police Department and the New York State Comptroller’s Office to find the root cause of the misuse of public money and will continue the work needed to prosecute this case in the courts and see that justice is done.”

As treasurer, DiNapoli stated Munson was responsible for maintaining the Fire Department’s bank account and financial records despite having no prior qualifications or background in accounting or financial matters. The felony complaint alleges that he used his position as Treasurer for the Croton-On-Hudson Fire Department to steal and conceal his theft of approximately $312,925 from the Fire Department.

The money Munson allegedly stole included portions of the so-called “2 Percent Money” paid annually to the Fire Department by New York State in connection with the state’s two percent tax on fire insurance. For years, Munson was able to conceal his ongoing theft by altering and manipulating the Department’s bank records. Those alterations and manipulations included his underreporting of the amount of “2 Percent Money” received by the Department in order to balance the books and hide what he stole for himself.

Munson was also charged with the Class C felony of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, which could bring an additional 15-year prison sentence. He is next due in court on September 12.

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