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Post date: March 25 2015

A.G. Schneiderman And Comptroller DiNapoli Announce Felony Guilty Plea Of Former City Of Rensselaer DPW Commissioner For Stealing Scrap Metal Proceeds

Defendant Thomas Capuano and Two Accomplices Have Pleaded Guilty To Stealing At Least $46,000 From The City’s Department Of Public Works By Pocketing Money From Sale of Scrap Metal

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the guilty plea of Thomas Capuano, the former Commissioner of the Department of Public Works of the City of Renssealer Department of Public Works, for teaming with two DPW employees to divert $46,000 from the city by pocketing the cash from scrap metals acquired as part of their jobs with the city.

Capuano pleaded guilty today in Rensselaer County Court to Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (a Class E felony), which carries a potential prison sentence of one and a third to four years. Capuano sold the scrap metal for his personal benefit between 2009 and 2013.

“Those who serve the public must be held to high ethical standards, and that is why my office has partnered with Comptroller DiNapoli on Operation Integrity to root out corruption and misuse of taxpayer dollars across our state,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today’s guilty plea ensures accountability for the theft of $46,000 and is the latest in over 60 public corruption cases against we have brought against state and local officials and their cronies since 2011.”

"Scrap metal can be a valuable commodity and the public rightly should have expected these employees weren’t pocketing the cash from it for themselves. Using public office for personal gain is a violation of the public trust and will not be tolerated," said State Comptroller DiNapoli. "My office will continue to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman to root out public corruption and hold those who abuse their position accountable."  

According to documents filed in court, Thomas Capuano was the Commissioner of the Rensselaer Department of Public Works, and the supervisor of his two co-defendants, Ronald Foust and Jeffrey Clark. Surveillance videos from a local scrap yard showed Foust and Clark cashing in items discarded by city residents. Foust and Clark later implicated Capuano, their supervisor, in the scheme. Both Foust and Clark have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing.

The Sanitation Division within the City’s Department of Public Works collects the city’s metals, including refrigerators, stoves, and copper coil that city residents leave on their curbs for home pick-up. The Sanitation Division then takes collected items to Rensselaer Iron, a scrap yard in Rensselaer County where the city has an account. In exchange, Rensselaer Iron writes a check to the city for the value of the metal turned in.

Court documents indicate that Foust, who was the Foreman of the sanitation crew, told investigators that at some point prior to 2010, he had the idea that rather than take both the bulk metal and scrap metal to Rensselaer Iron, he could separate the scrap metal from the bulk metal, and take the scrap metal to another scrap yard in Albany, Capitol Scrap, that paid out in cash. In doing so, he could pocket some extra money without the bulk metal even appearing to have been stripped of its parts. Foust took this idea to his supervisor, Mr. Capuano, who approved of the idea and allowed him to use a city truck to make the trips during business hours. According to the felony complaint filed in court, Foust and Clark shared part of the proceeds with Mr. Capuano.  This scheme involved at least $46,000 in theft from the city during the four year period.

The Joint Task Force on Public Integrity is a cooperative effort between Attorney General Schneiderman's and Comptroller DiNapoli's offices to root out public corruption and maximize the resources of each office. Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the staff at Comptroller DiNapoli’s Office for their invaluable cooperation and assistance in this investigation.

Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Christopher Baynes of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau, assisted by Assistant Attorney General Rachel Doft and former Assistant Attorney General Colleen Glavin. The Public Integrity Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Daniel Cort and Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. The Public Integrity Bureau is part of the Division of Criminal Justice led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. The investigation was handled by Investigator Dennis Tomasone, with support from Deputy Chief Investigator Antoine Karam and Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella of the Attorney General's Investigations Bureau.

The joint investigation was conducted with the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations.

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