HUDSON—Former Village of Chatham Police Chief Peter Volkmann, who once ran unsuccessfully for Columbia County sheriff, was sentenced to a two-year conditional discharge for a fourth-degree grand larceny conviction and a one-year conditional discharge with 200 hours of community service for an official misconduct conviction.
Columbia County Judge Richard Koweek sentenced Mr. Volkmann in Columbia County Court, July 19, according to a press release from Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka.
Mr. Volkmann, 57, of Stuyvesant previously pleaded guilty to grand larceny, a class E felony, and official misconduct, a class A misdemeanor, before Judge Koweek, February 11.
At that time, the judge ordered Mr. Volkmann to pay $92,829 in restitution to the Village of Chatham and the State of New York Retirement System prior to his sentencing. Because of his guilty pleas, which translate to convictions, Mr. Volkmann automatically forfeited his public office.
While serving as police chief in the Village of Chatham and earlier as police chief in the Town of Stockport, Mr. Volkmann engaged in a scheme to steal from the New York State Retirement System and padded his pension with $74,222 in public funds, said the DA’s release.
Mr. Volkmann hid public-source income from 19 municipalities and school districts in excess of the statutory limit by funneling the earnings through his private business, P.F. Volkmann & Associates Inc.
The business’ facebook page (https://m.facebook.com/pfvolkmann/) says the business provides a public and government service, “ASAP, Active Shooter Action Plan Training.”
He also engaged in a scheme to submit false mileage vouchers and other reimbursements to the Village of Chatham, defrauding taxpayers to the tune of $18,607, according to the DA’s release.
The sentence was the result of a two-year investigation that began shortly before State Police executed Columbia County Judge Jonathan Nichols’ search warrant at the Tracy Memorial Village Hall, 77 Main Street, Chatham, January 8, 2019, said DA Czajka, who prosecuted the case with Deputy Chief ADA Ryan Carty.
Mr. Volkmann was the Chatham Village police chief since the fall 2013 and he served as unpaid commissioner of the Hudson Police Department from January 2020, until this investigation became public.
DA Czajka praised the work of the investigators of the New York State Comptroller’s Division of Investigations, including, Chief Investigator Joseph Fiore, Chief of Forensic Audit Thomas Casaregola, Supervising Forensic Auditor Sara Tillapaugh, Forensic Auditor Ellielynn Hawkins, Forensic Auditor Kathryn Mullikin, Investigator Candace R. Burnham and the State Police, including, Senior Investigator Eric Barnes and lead investigators Feroze Munim and Mathew Reilly.
“Mr. Volkmann stole funds from the citizens he was sworn to protect and serve as police chief of the Village of Chatham.
“In doing so, he undermined much of the good he did in providing assistance to so many suffering from addiction. With his conviction before Judge Koweek, those funds were returned in full to the Village of Chatham and the New York State Retirement System. I thank and commend the New York State Police, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and their highly trained and proficient investigators for bringing this complex case to a successful resolution,” District Attorney Czajka said.
In a statement, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said, “No one is above law, including Volkmann who, as the chief law enforcement officer of the village, not only defrauded the state retirement system but also stole from his community. I thank District Attorney Paul Czajka and the New York State Police for their partnership in helping us bring justice to this case.”
“Our investigation determined that the suspect in this case violated the public trust by circumventing retirement laws and stealing from village funds,” said State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen in a press release. “We will continue to aggressively investigate any case that involves public corruption, and I want to commend our members and the Comptroller’s Office and Columbia County District Attorney’s Office for their partnership to ensure that justice was served.”
Albany-based attorney William Dreyer represents Mr. Volkmann.
During his time as Chatham Village police chief, Mr. Volkmann started the Chatham Cares 4U (CC4U) program that helped people with addiction issues find treatment beds and transported them to treatment centers. He received the 2018 Police Assisted and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) Leadership Award for his work with CC4U. In 2018, Chief Volkmann and the CC4U program were part of a Working Strategies meeting on the national opioid crisis at the White House.
Judge Koweek mentioned that program during the sentencing on Monday, saying, “You’ve done good in your career.” But, the Judge said, “You also messed up royally here.”
Newsman Lance Wheeler shared a recording of the sentencing.
Judge Koweek also stressed that Mr. Volkmann must complete his community service by working with a traditional not-for-profit organization, not working for a “buddy” and writing it off.
At the sentencing, Mr. Volkmann restated his guilt and said he has lost his house, his company and “my standing in the community.”
As for the two-year investigation into village finances, in January 2019, State Police and agents of the state Department of Taxation and Finance and the state Comptroller’s Office seized documents and village computers from the Village Clerk’s office. They also searched and seized equipment from the home of former village treasurer Barbara Henry.
New York State Police charged Ms. Henry with taking $4,182.37 in public funds between April 2017 and 2018 by falsely altering public records pertaining to health insurance premiums retained by the village.
New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the state comptroller’s toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at , or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 8th Floor, 110 State Street, Albany 12236.
Emilia Teasdale contributed to this story.