HUDSON–Monday morning, February 28, just as jury selection was about to start in her Columbia County Court trial, Pegeen Mulligan-Moore pleaded guilty to the entire 20-count indictment that charged her with a variety of crimes for stealing more than $337,000 from the towns of Kinderhook and Greenport over three years.
No plea deal was offered, no restitution amount was agreed upon and no sentencing recommendation was put forth.
Columbia County District Attorney Beth Cozzolino told The Columbia Paper Monday that she reserves the right to make her sentencing recommendation at the time of sentencing. She also said that a three-day restitution hearing April 12 to 14 will decide the amount she will ask the court to order Ms. Mulligan-Moore to pay back.
Neither the defendant nor the prosecution stipulated to anything, said the DA, noting witnesses will be called and proof will be offered about how much Ms. Mulligan-Moore stole.
The former bookkeeper for the towns of Kinderhook and Greenport, Ms. Mulligan-Moore, 42, of Valatie, was charged on a sealed indictment containing 18 felony and 2 misdemeanor counts, opened in County Court September 8, 2010 before County Judge Jonathan Nichols.
She was charged with: two counts of second degree grand larceny, a class C felony; two counts of third degree grand larceny, a class D felony; two counts of computer trespass, a class E felony; one count of fourth degree grand larceny, a class E felony; one count of first degree falsifying business records, a class E felony; two counts of first degree tampering with public records, a class D felony; one count of second degree attempted forgery, a class E felony; seven counts of first degree falsifying business records, a class D felony; one count of obstruction of governmental administration, a misdemeanor; and one count of fifth degree criminal possession of stolen property, a misdemeanor.
The indictment charged that between December 7, 2006 and January 15, 2010, Ms. Mulligan-Moore stole the money “through a series of electronic fund transfers directly from the Town of Kinderhook’s bank accounts into her personal American Express credit card account,” according to a press release issued by the DA at the time.
Appointed by former Supervisor Doug McGivney, Ms. Mulligan-Moore was Kinderhook’s bookkeeper for five years from 2005 to 2010. She was also Mr. McGivney’s assistant.
Even after Mr. McGivney was defeated in the November 2009 election and Ms. Mulligan-Moore’s appointment ended December 31, 2009, she allegedly stole an additional $14,000 from Kinderhook during the first two weeks of January 2010.
Ms. Mulligan-Moore started working for the Town of Greenport as a bookkeeper in January 2010 under Supervisor Edward Nabozny and continued to work there until July. During that time, she allegedly stole more than $50,000 from that town’s accounts by depositing town checks into her personal checking account.
“It’s a sad thing for the people of Kinderhook and Greenport when a public official confesses to stealing over $400,000,” Kinderhook Supervisor Pat Grattan said after her guilty plea. Mr. Grattan said the actual amount taken has still not been determined by accountants working on the matter.
If Ms. Mulligan-Moore does make restitution, the first $300,000 would go to the town’s insurance company, Travelers, which will soon issue a check to the town in that amount under its employee dishonesty claim. The town also has a civil suit pending against Ms. Mulligan-Moore.
Mr. Grattan said he encountered indications that “something was amiss” with town finances when he saw that the town’s checking account balance was $154.69. “Even I have a few more dollars in my checking account than the town did,” he said, adding, “It did not make sense.”
Then he started getting calls from the town’s creditors, like the health insurance company, the electric company, the suppliers of blacktop and gravel, saying the town’s bills had not been paid–$85,000 for blacktop and $60,000 for gravel and cold mix. A review of the town’s bank statement revealed an Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer of nearly $20,000 to an American Express account in December 2009. He later learned that the town did not have an American Express card. “We’re doing everything we can to get the town’s money back,” said the supervisor.
Commenting on the case, DA Cozzolino noted, “But for the vigilance of Supervisor Pat Grattan, this theft could have continued for years. Thanks to the coordinated efforts of DA’s Office staff, State Police and Comptroller’s Office investigators we were fortunate to be able to resolve this case successfully,” she said.
Ms. Mulligan-Moore is represented by Andrew Safranko of the O’Connell and Aronowitz law firm in Albany. Mr. Safranko attributed the timing of her guilty plea to court procedure, saying, “There was no opportunity before.”
Though Ms. Mulligan-Moore pleaded not guilty at her arraignment, Mr. Safranko said that “from day one” his client admitted to the charges and accepted responsibility. He said he has been sharing documents with the DA’s Office, trying to work out a restitution figure and had notified the DA that “we had no intention of proceeding to trial.”
He said jurors were called in as a matter of course because “until someone actually pleads guilty, they could change their mind.”
The maximum sentence, if terms were consecutive, on the two class C felonies, Ms. Mulligan-Moore faces is 15 years apiece; 11 class D felonies, a maximum of 7 years apiece; and 5 class E felonies, maximum of 4 years apiece.
But according to Mr. Safranko, though he admits not having sat down and figured it out yet, the maximum jail time his client could be facing is somewhere between 10 to 20 or 20 to 30 years “reduced by operation of law.”
Though that’s “still a lot of time,” he said, it’s nowhere near the 98 years discussed in court at the time of his client’s plea. He said his client hopes to work and “fully intends to make restitution.” But asked what kind of a job his client might land under the circumstances, he said, “we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
The attorney noted that Ms. Mulligan-Moore has no prior arrests and they are hoping for a fair pre-sentencing report.
Ms. Mulligan-Moore remains free on $300,000 bail bond and her sentencing is April 19.