Cayuga Sheriff Arrested On Felony Charges

Attorney General Spitzer and State Police Superintendent James W. McMahon today announced the arrest of the Cayuga County Sheriff on charges that he stole money from a drug forfeiture fund and used the money to finance family vacation trips and other personal activities.

Sheriff Peter J. Pickney has been charged with three counts: Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class "D" felony; Defrauding the Government, a class "E" felony; and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, also a class "E" felony. A class "D" felony is punishable by a prison term of up to 2 1/3 to 7 years.

"It is always tragic when a member of law enforcement violates his oath," Spitzer said. "This case is especially sad because the individual involved enjoyed the trust and respect of people in his community."

"But no person is above the law," the Attorney General said.

Spitzer said that the investigation began after members of the sheriff's own staff and the Auburn Police Department approached his office with concerns about the sheriff's use of public funds, and sought an independent investigation. The attorney general contacted the governor's office to secure the help of the New York State Police, who assisted with the investigation. The investigation involved a thorough review of department records and extensive interviews with department personnel, as well undercover operations.

New York State Police Superintendent James W. McMahon said: "I commend the law enforcement officers from the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office and the Police Department who brought their concerns regarding the sheriff's conduct to the attention of the Attorney General Spitzer. It speaks highly of their integrity and commitment to public service."

The charges against the sheriff specifically allege that on multiple occasions, he misappropriated money from the department's Seized Assets Fund and used it for personal expenses such as family travel. The complaint alleges that the defendant stole more than $3,000 during a two-year period, ordered subordinates to assist him in the process, and then took steps to cover up his wrongdoing.

In addition, Pickney is also charged with ordering county employees to make home improvements, maintenance and repairs to his residence, and provide personal services to the defendant.

Pickney was arrested and processed at the New York State Police barracks in Elbridge. He was arraigned in Town of Sennett Court before Justice Thomas M. Blair where he entered a plea of not guilty. Pickney has served as Sheriff since 1991.

The case remains open and ongoing. The charges contained in the complaint are allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent.

This matter was handled by Assistant Deputy Attorney General James Mindell of the Syracuse Office, Deputy Bureau Chief of Criminal Prosecutions William Comiskey, Investigator Shaun

Thurston, and Deputy Chief Investigator James Horton under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Peter B. Pope. Assisting in the investigation were the State Police Special Investigations Unit, members of the City of Auburn Police Department and the Cayuga County Sheriff's Department.

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