The former financial director of the Suffolk chapter of the American Red Cross used her debit card from the nonprofit to steal more than a quarter of a million dollars over a four-year period before leaving the organization, Suffolk prosecutors said Tuesday.
Deborah Leggio, 47, withdrew hundreds of dollars in cash several times a week from a Red Cross bank account and spent it on restaurant meals, nail salon appointments and her son's college tuition, prosecutors said at Leggio's arraignment at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead.
Leggio left the position in December 2009 and now lives in Tracy, Calif. The alleged theft was first noticed last year during an internal audit, Red Cross officials said.
The former Coram resident pleaded not guilty to one count of second-degree grand larceny. County Court Judge Gary Weber ordered Leggio held on $35,000 bond or $17,500 cash bail. As of late Tuesday afternoon, she remained in the Suffolk County jail.
If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years in prison.
Leggio's attorney, Peter Brill of Hauppauge, suggested in court that his client's arrest was related to a management shake-up that occurred last year at the Suffolk chapter. He did not elaborate.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Suffolk chapter of the Red Cross said it had found the "suspected irregularities" during a fiscal review and referred it to county prosecutors.
The statement does not comment on Leggio's arrest or the charges. A Suffolk Red Cross spokesman said the agency would not comment further.
Representatives of the American Red Cross' national headquarters in Washington, D.C., were not immediately available for comment.
Prosecutors said Leggio, from August 2005 to November 2009, went to ATMs several times each week and used her Red Cross debit card to withdraw $800 to $2,000 per transaction.
In all, Leggio stole $274,301, Assistant District Attorney Ming Parson said. "She had full access and control of the bank [account], which is how she was able to do this," Parson said outside of court, adding that Leggio had no fiscal oversight.
In 1990, before she worked for the Suffolk Red Cross, Leggio was convicted of grand theft in Clay County, Fla., for stealing from her employer, Parson said in court. For that, Leggio served a 13-month prison sentence, Parson said.
Outside court, Parson said the Suffolk Red Cross didn't know about Leggio's Florida conviction when it hired her.
Leggio is due back in court on March 23.
The Red Cross provides disaster relief, such as shelter, food, and health and mental health services, and has programs to aid military service members. The nonprofit also offers first-aid training, nutrition assistance for senior citizens and rehabilitation programs for people convicted of drunken driving.