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Post date: July 2 2007

State Office Of Mental Health Worker Sentenced To Prison For Stealing More Than $1.2 Million From New York Taxpayers

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 2, 2007) - New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the sentencing of a former 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 former senior auditor at OMH and 27-year state employee, was sentenced by Albany County Court Judge Thomas A. Breslin to 3 1/3-to-10 years in state prison and must pay full restitution. Leggiero pleaded guilty April 14 to Grand Larceny in the First Degree, a class B felony. At that time, he resigned from OMH and agreed not to seek any future New York State government or public employment.

"Mr. Leggiero swindled taxpayers for nine years to support his own lavish lifestyle of luxury homes and fast cars," said Attorney General Cuomo. "His crime and the length of time he was able to perpetrate it shows why my office's emphasis on public integrity cases is so important to help restore trust in government. My Public Integrity Bureau will continue making examples of those who think they can get away with using state coffers as their own personal piggy bank."

From August 1998 to February 2007, Leggiero abused his position as an OMH 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.

Concurrent with the criminal case, the Attorney General's Office also filed an asset forfeiture lawsuit against Leggiero and seized his bank accounts, five Corvettes and other property to be used to reimburse the state.

To help make government more accountable, Attorney General Cuomo also launched a 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 is one of a series of recent 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 a series of moves to restore faith in New York's government, including:

  • Formally reviewing approximately 6,000 legislative "member items" appropriated in last year's budget and implementing a new certification process for all future member-item requests. The certification includes disclosure of relationships between grantees and lawmakers, confirmation the money will be used for a public purpose and confirmation that the organization receiving the member-item grant is in good legal standing.
  • Creating "Project Sunlight," New York's first-ever comprehensive Internet database tracking donors, lobbyists, special interests, state contracts, and elected officials, and the links between them. The program is being put together under the leadership of Special Advisor on Policy and Public Integrity Blair Horner.
  • Providing a landmark decision informing certain New York public authorities and agencies that the practice of providing health insurance premiums to current or retired board members is illegal. Many authorities have since ended the practice.
  • Partnering with Albany County District Attorney David P. Soares to share resources and effectively investigate and root out corruption in state government.
  • Obtaining the guilty plea and resignation of New York Power Authority Deputy Counsel Carmine Clemente for stealing from the state by claiming health insurance benefits he wasn't entitled to.

The Office of Attorney General's investigation into the Leggiero case was led by Senior Investigator Michael Battisti and the prosecution was handled by Special Deputy Attorney General for Public Integrity Ellen Biben and Assistant Attorney General John Carroll.