Pleasant Valley Town Clerk Margaret Hart is facing a felony grand-larceny charge following her indictment on allegations she stole more than $27,000 in town funds over more than three years, according to Dutchess County District Attorney William V. Grady.
Hart stole cash payments and manipulated town accounts to disguise her theft, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement. Hart also serves as town tax collector.
Hart “allegedly stole by pocketing cash deposits instead of depositing them in the clerk’s bank account,” DiNapoli said. Senior Assistant District Attorney Andrea Long said the money has not been recovered.
Hart, 57, was charged with third-degree grand larceny, a felony; and two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.
Town officials alerted DiNapoli's office, whose forensic team conducted an audit, officials said. The audit and a state police probe laid the foundation for a grand jury investigation led by Long.
Pleasant Valley town Supervisor Mark Figliozzi said in a statement that he was made aware of irregularities involving the transfer of funds between town accounts shortly after taking office in 2016. He said he alerted the town’s attorney and outside auditor and ordered an audit covering several years.
The audit revealed shortfalls in accounts, Figliozzi said. He put safeguards in place and said that, after several attempts by the town’s auditor to reconcile the shortfall, contacted DiNapoli’s office.
Hart was arraigned Monday afternoon in Poughkeepsie before acting Dutchess County Judge George Fufidio, Grady said. She voluntarily appeared in County Court with her attorney, Thomas Melanson of Kingston, for her arraignment, according to Long. She was then directed to the state police Troop K Headquarters in Salt Point for processing.
Hart stole the funds collected by the Town Clerk’s Office from 2012-16, Grady said. The money had been collected for various fees paid by residents, including marriage licenses, hunting and fishing licenses and property taxes.
She was released without bail and is due back in court April 6.
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