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Former Riverside treasurer embezzles $80k

ALBANY - The former treasurer in the village of Riverside, located in Steuben County, stole more than $80,000 in taxpayer funds through extra pay, pocketing cash and using the village’s credit card for personal purchases, according to an audit released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The former treasurer – Kristina Johnson – was arrested in November by New York State Police based on information provided by DiNapoli’s auditors and investigators. She was charged with one count of grand larceny in the second degree and two counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. Today she was arraigned in Steuben County Court and is due back in court on May 1.

“This individual exploited her position and cheated village taxpayers,” said DiNapoli. “Too often my office finds public funds that have gone missing because one individual has complete control over a municipality’s finances with little to no oversight. I would like to thank the State Police and Steuben County District Attorney Baker for working with my staff to hold this individual responsible for her actions.”

From August 2008 through February 2013, Johnson made $40,846 in extra payroll distributions and overpayments to herself and into her personal bank account by check and direct deposits, according to DiNapoli. She also skimmed $35,881 in cash from village water and sewer rent payments as well as $330 in collections from village hall rentals and landfill fees.

Johnson also used the village credit card to make $5,000 in personal purchases for items such as electronics, clothing, groceries, personal cell phone expenses, online dating services and a white water rafting trip.

The theft was possible because the village allowed the treasurer to process payroll, make purchases, pay bills, write checks and collect and deposit moneys with no board oversight. This system created an environment where the treasurer was able to initiate transactions outside of her authority and the normal village business cycle without detection.

DiNapoli said the village board should take appropriate action to recover all of the stolen funds. He also made several recommendations to help improve village financial controls. These include:

  • Implement comprehensive policies and procedures over payroll;
  • Develop policies and procedures that safeguard cash receipts. These policies and procedures should segregate duties, hold individual employees accountable for collections made, and detail which reports will be maintained to verify amounts collected;
  • Require prior approval for adjustments, write-offs or refunds in the water and sewer accounts;
  • Adopt a comprehensive credit card policy and review and update the policy annually;
  • Require the treasurer to provide monthly financial reports that include a list of all moneys received and disbursed, budget-to-actual comparisons, fund balance amounts and reconciled cash balances for each fund.

Village officials have already taken a number of steps to improve financial oversight. Their response is included in the final audit.

For a copy of the report visit: www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/villages/2014/riverside.pdf