They called him their hometown Madoff. And now that former Roslyn schools chief Frank Tassone is just days from his release from prison for embezzlement, local residents say he got off easy.
Tassone, 63, sentenced in October 2006 to 4 to 12 years for his part in an $11-million embezzlement of school district funds, will be released from a state prison Tuesday - more than eight months short of his minimum sentence.
Tassone pleaded guilty to first- and second-degree grand larceny. His attorney did not return a call for comment Friday.
"Holy smokes," said Roslyn resident Michael Hilton, 55, reacting to Tassone's early release. "You have got to be kidding me. It's an injustice . . . He took money from children."
Tassone is scheduled to leave the medium security Hale Creek Correctional Facility in upstate Johnstown so soon thanks to good behavior and completing rehabilitative programs while incarcerated.
Authorities say the former superintendent fleeced Roslyn of more than $2 million, which he has repaid, part of about $5.5 million from the scam that has been recovered. Six people, four of whom worked for the district, pleaded guilty in connection with the theft.
What really set blood boiling in Roslyn on Friday was knowing that Tassone will continue to receive his annual state pension of $173,495 in monthly installments, as he did while in prison.
"I personally find it unconscionable this excuse for a human being is going to be let out of jail early, get his pension for life and health benefits while people in Roslyn are struggling to work two jobs," said former board member Jeffrey Borowick, whose three children attended Roslyn public schools.
Kira Cerny, 21, was a student in Roslyn's public schools while Tassone was in charge and when the sweeping scandal unfolded.
"The reason why my parents moved here was for me to go to this school," she said. But when she was a student, "We didn't have the budget we seemed to be having and then we find out all these people were stealing millions of dollars . . . Why is he getting out?"
And Miles Corn, 18, a Roslyn High School senior, said his school had to make cuts in the wake of the scandal. School officials have declined to comment on Tassone's release.
"It's ridiculous," Corn said. "He took stuff away that we were supposed to have."