Office Of Mental Health Employee Pleads Guilty For Stealing Over $1.2 Million From New York Taxpayers

April 10, 2007 - New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the guilty plea of a high-level State Office of Mental Health (OMH) employee who stole $1.2 million in taxpayer funds over a nine year period.

James L. Leggiero, 50, of Albany, a senior auditor at OMH and 27-year state employee, was arrested, arraigned and subsequently pleaded guilty today to one count of Grand Larceny in the First Degree, a class B felony. He entered his plea before Albany County Court Judge Thomas A. Breslin. Pursuant to the Attorney General's recommendation set forth in a plea agreement, he could serve up to ten years in state prison. Leggiero must also forfeit the money he stole from the state. He has resigned from OMH and agreed not to seek any future New York State government or public employment. Sentencing is scheduled for July 2 in front of Judge Breslin.

From August 1998 to February 2007, Leggiero abused his position as an auditor by submitting and approving approximately 80 vouchers for Very Important Properties (VIP), a bogus company established by Leggiero as part of his scheme. The vouchers ranged from several hundred dollars to more than $99,000. To conceal the crime, Leggiero opened a checking account in the name of VIP; he then used the funds in the account for his personal expenses. Pursuant to the scheme, Leggiero stole a total of $1,232,072 from taxpayers.

Attorney General Cuomo said, "This case involves not just the theft of $1 million. It involves a breach of the public trust. We cannot afford to be less than vigilant in rooting out this type of crime. In order to ensure public integrity there must be accountability. For this reason, my office is working diligently to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent in a lawful manner. I appreciate the work of the Office of the State Comptroller, which was instrumental in bringing this individual to justice."

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said, "Protecting taxpayer dollars is a central focus of my role as Comptroller, and I am pleased that staff from the Comptroller's Office and Attorney General Cuomo's office were able to collaborate quickly and successfully to halt this theft of state funds. I want to recognize and thank the auditors, investigators and other Comptroller's Office employees whose diligent work helped to uncover this scheme and bring Mr. Leggiero to justice. This sends a message to any other state worker who might think about doing something similar."

To help make government more accountable, Attorney General Cuomo also launched new public integrity hotline New Yorkers can use to report allegations of government wrongdoing. Anyone with information about questionable activities can call 1-800-428-9072. Calls will be kept confidential.

The Leggiero case and public integrity hotline are the latest actions in Attorney General Cuomo's continuing fight against corruption and ethical break-downs in New York State government. Since taking office in January, Attorney General Cuomo has undertaken the following tasks to restore faith in New York's government: