Dale Hughes, ex-Woodstock fire treasurer, gets year for $220K theft
The former treasurer of an Ulster County fire company was sentenced to a year in jail Wednesday for stealing more than $200,000 from the unit over a five-year period, officials said.
Dale Hughes Jr., 64, of Lake Hill, was handed a one-year sentence at the Ulster County Jail in Kingston by County Court Judge Donald Williams, under a plea deal reached in January, Ulster district attorney's office spokeswoman MaryLee Melville said Wednesday.
Hughes pleaded guilty to felony second-degree grand larceny in January. He had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison. He will be eligible for release from the jail on good behavior in November and will not face post-release supervision.
Hughes, an attorney and a former member of the Woodstock Town Board from 1992 to 1997, was treasurer of Woodstock Fire Company No. 3 from 1997 to 2011. An audit performed on the company's books last year by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that from 2006 to 2011, Hughes embezzled $200,385 by writing 83 company checks payable to cash, endorsing and cashing them himself, and then depositing the cash into his personal bank account, officials said.
Hughes even stole $21,000 in proceeds from the unit's pancake breakfast fundraisers, officials said, and routinely failed to file written reports on the unit's spending.
The scheme began to unravel in May 2011, when a $10,000 fire company for a new garage door bounced.
Later, when state auditors requested some financial documents, Hughes altered records to try and hide his thefts, and began borrowing money from relatives to secretly put back in the fire company's bank account. As of July 2012, about $170,000 had been returned, officials said.
Hughes has since repaid the remainder of the money stolen, Melville said. His law license will be revoked.
The Woodstock Fire District consists of five companies. Hughes' crime affected only Company No. 3, officials said.
In his audit, DiNapoli outlined several recommendations for the fire company to improve its financial oversight. Fire officials told DiNapoli they would work to implement his suggestions.
A message left with Hughes' attorney, Brian Rounds of Kingston, was not immediately returned Thursday.