BY BRUCE LAMBERT New York Times
GARDEN CITY, N.Y., Nov. 15 Nassau County’s District Attorney has attacked as too lenient a judge’s plan to impose a six month jail sentence on the outside auditor who has pleaded guilty to helping cover up the theft of millions of dollars from the Roslyn School District.
District Attorney Denis Dillon made his complaints public on Tuesday as he called on Judge Alan L. Honorof of Nassau County Court to impose a minimum sentence of one to three years in jail instead. The judge declined to comment.
Mr. Dillon’s highly unusual public criticism of the judge came a week after he lost re-election to the post he has held for 30 years. During the campaign, Mr. Dillon was accused of too often resorting to plea bargains to produce high conviction rates. Critics also complained of the deal he reached with the former Roslyn schools superintendent, Frank A. Tassone, who was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison after admitting he stole $2 million from the district. He also agreed to make restitution and to cooperate with investigators.
The former auditor, Andrew Miller, 56, pleaded guilty on Monday to a felony charge of tampering with public records, by altering computerized records to help crooked school officials conceal their theft of $11 million in taxpayer money. At the hearing, Judge Honorof told Mr. Miller of his sentencing plan, which would also include four and one half years of probation. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 11.
In a statement, Mr. Dillon called the Miller sentence wrong, “Most important, it fails to adequately punish the defendant,” the district attorney said. Mr. Miller deliberately concealed crimes from the school board and “lied to investigators during the initial stages of my investigation,” Mr. Dillon said.
Further, Mr. Dillon said that a six month term had no deterrent value. “It sends a message that if you betray the public trust, there will be no consequence,” and it “impedes the ongoing investigation.” He also called the six months inconsistent with the judge’s sentences for others in the Roslyn case.
Besides Dr. Tassone, two other Roslyn defendants also agreed to plea bargains. The former assistant superintendent for business, Pamela C. Gluckin, will be imprisoned three to nine years, pay restitution of $4 million and cooperate. Her niece, Debra Rigano, a former school clerk, will serve two to four years, pay $780,000 restitution and cooperate.
Mr. Dillon and other prosecutors have defended their plea agreements in the Roslyn scandal, noting the jail times, restitution and agreements to cooperate.
Mr. Miller’s case does not include future cooperation because an “intensive debriefing” found he had no useful additional information, said the assistant district attorney in charge, Peter J. Mancuso.
Neither is Mr. Miller paying restitution, since he did not get any stolen money, Mr. Mancuso said.
The motive for altering the records was to conceal Mr. Miller’s failure to find and report misdeeds, said his lawyer, William S. Petrillo.
“It was to spare himself humiliation and criticism for not having detected this sooner,” he said.
“He didn’t make any money from this. He’s lost everything.”
Once the leading accountants for Long Island school districts, the firm of which Mr. Miller was a partner, Miller Lilly & Pearce, went out of business in the aftermath of the Roslyn scandals.
Mr. Petrillo called Mr. Dillon’s statement a “misleading attack on a highly respected judge” that was “unjustified, uncalled for and absurd.”
A longer sentence has implications besides the time served. Short sentences are served in the local jail, which is more convenient for visitors and also has certain fixed release dates. Sentences longer than a year must be served in upstate prisons, with release depending on the parole board.
Charges say that instead of being a watchdog, accountant helped Roslyn official hide $11.2M in thefts
By Karla Schuster and Samuel Bruchey NEWSDAY STAFF WRITERS
The longtime auditor for the Roslyn public schools falsified records to cover up the theft millions of dollars and advised the former superintendent how to use district credit cards with-out scrutiny, prosecutors said yesterday, announcing an indictment against the accountant.
Andrew Miller, 56, of Port Jefferson, whose now-defunct firm audited Roslyn and other Long Island districts for years, was released without bail after pleading not guilty at his arraignment. He was indicted on 26 felony charges, including tampering with evidence and falsifying business records.
“He participated in an effort to cover up the largest, most remarkable, most extraordinary theft of public monies of a public school in American history – $11.2 million missing,” state Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi said after a news conference in Mineola with Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon.
“He’s in this up to his eyeballs,” Hevesi said.
As a result of the Roslyn scandal, Hevesi’s office is auditing 23 Long Island districts. Yesterday, he said “it wouldn’t surprise me at all” if his staff uncovers criminality in some of the 10 districts where audits have yet to be released.
Miller is the fifth person to be indicted in the Roslyn case. His attorney, William Petrillo, of Rockville Centre Centre, denied the charges yesterday. Petrillo said those already charged in the case had reason to alter records that Miller did not.
Authorities said they have found no evidence Miller stole any money. The four others have been charged with grand larceny and pleaded not guilty.
“There were many people with access to those records. . . all of whom had a motive and incentive to falsify, to change records — a motive that Mr. Miller does not have, never had and would not have had,” Petrillo said.
State auditors say at least $11.2 million in district funds were used to pay personal expenses for school officials, their family and friends. Miller helped those officials conceal the alleged theft by changing computer records at the request of former superintendent Frank Tassone, prosecutors said. They would not say what motive Miller had for his alleged actions.
“To what extent he did this to protect himself or his business, we’re not prepared to say, ” said Assistant District Attorney Peter Mancuso.
Prosecutors are still investigating Miller and others, Mancuso said, and expect more indictments in the coming months.
Besides Miller, those indicted in the case are: Tassone; his live-in partner, Stephen Signorelli; former assistant superintendent Pamela Gluckin and former business clerk Debra Rigano.
As managing partner of the East Setauket accounting firm Miller, Lilly & Pearce, Miller oversaw the annual audits in Roslyn for 13 years until 2004, prosecutors said.
The firm also audited 50 other school districts on the Island and statewide. It closed in January, after Hevesi issued a scathing report about its work in Roslyn.
Miller declined to comment yesterday, but in an interview with Newsday last summer, he said of Roslyn: “I still maintain that we did a damn good job in that district. I can walk around with my head held high.”
But as early as 2002, authorities say, Miller was helping Tassone hide his credit card spending.
“We believe there was a conversation along the lines of, ‘If you keep the Amex bills under $10,000 a month, it’ll be OK.’ No one would notice,” Mancuso said.
Tassone stands accused of stealing about $2 million, much of it using his district-issued American Express card.
Miller also is charged with presenting falsified records to prosecutors and state auditors as evidence for their investigation.
In the spring of 2004, Miller told investigators that he’d discovered how school officials concealed their alleged theft from him for so long: when a district check was cut for a personal expense, someone changed computer records to make the payments appear as if they had gone to vendors such as textbook companies.
In fact, it was Miller who changed those computer records – all at one time in February 2004 after Tassone “asked for his help in ‘cleaning up’ the school district’s financial records,” Dillon said. The request came after an anonymous tipster sent letters to the district and prosecutors, sparking the criminal investigation.
The letters said that in October 2002, the school board found Gluckin had stolen $250,000 from the district, but did not report the theft to police. Instead, she was allowed to repay the money and retire.
At that time, Miller told the school board that based on his investigation, $250,000 was the full amount stolen. But state auditors have said that when they reviewed the same records last year, using the methods Miller claimed to have used in 2002, they found $1.1 million missing.
“We were relying on him [Miller] to investigate the whole situation,” said former school board president William Costigan. “All of them were involved in the conspiracy and there’s no way a volunteer such as myself could have known anything was amiss.”
Staff writer Michael Rothfeld contributed to the above story.
Wrist Slap Furor – DA rips Roslyn Judge
By KIERAN CROWLEY New York New York Post
A Long Island district attorney has blasted a judge for allowing a figure in the Roslyn schools scandal to get no more than six months in a local jail instead of serving his time upstate.
Nassau County DA Nassau Denis Dillon – who on Nov. 8 was unseated after 30 years in a stunning election upset that included charges from his opponent that he permitted too lenient plea bargain deals in the Roslyn case – has asked Acting Supreme Court Judge Alan Honorof to reconsider.
On Monday, Honorof committed to a six month sentencing cap and five years of probation for Andrew Miller, the school district’s private auditor who pleaded guilty to cooking the books to cover up the $11.2 million theft. Miller pleaded guilty to tampering with public records, but was not charged with stealing public funds, as the others charged in the case have been.
“I feel this court’s actions in this case are wrong for several reasons,” Dillon said yesterday. “Most important, it fails to adequately punish the defendant for his actions.”
Miller faced up to 2 to 7 years in jail. Dillon said Miller “took affirmative steps to conceal the ongoing thefts by the administration and staff’ after former superintendent Frank Tassone asked him to do so, a charge denied by Miller’s lawyer.
“Secondly, the proposed sentence has no deterrent value,” said Dillon. “It sends a message that if you betray the public trust, there will be no consequence.”
“Finally, this sentence commitment impedes the ongoing investigation” into the fraud, Dillon said. Honorof declined to comment.
“The district attorney’s misleading attack on a highly respected judge is as unjustified as it is uncalled for,” said Miller’s lawyer, William Petrillo, who called Dillon’s remarks “absurd.”
Petrillo noted that it was “a case involving a nonviolent crime and no financial gain” and that 25 of 26 counts against his client have been dismissed. He called Dillon’s request “extremely unusual.”
Miller, 56, of Port Jefferson, made no cooperation agreement “because he was not part of any conspiracy,” said Petrillo. “He had a clean record. He didn’t steal any money.
“He did it to spare himself embarrassment for not having uncovered the fraud sooner,” said Petrillo.
kieran. [email protected]
Dillon Balks at Roslyn Sentence
By Karla Schuster NEWSDAY STAFF WRITER
Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon is calling on the judge presiding over the Roslyn school embezzlement cases to withdraw his commitment to sentence the district’s former auditor to no more than 6 months in jail.
“The proposed sentence has no deterrent value,” Dillon said in a statement released yesterday, referring to Nassau Judge Alan Honorof’s sentencing commitment to Andrew Miller. Miller, 56, of Port Jefferson, pleaded guilty Monday to tampering with computerized financial records to cover up the $11.2 million embezzlement scheme.
Miller will be formally sentenced Jan. 11, but during his court appearance Monday, Honorof promised a maximum sentence of 6 months in county jail and five years probation, pending the outcome of a pre-sentencing report by probation officials.
Nassau County Court spokesman Daniel Bagnola said Honorof could not comment on a pending case.
Prosecutors had asked Honorof to sentence Miller to a state correctional facility, which means at least 1 year’s time. Dillon said Miller was supposed to act as a safeguard against theft, but instead helped conceal it. He also tried to mislead investigators, Dillon said.
Miller, managing partner of the now-defunct East Setauket accountng firm of Miller, Lilly, & Pearce, pleaded guilty to one count of tampering with public records in the first degree. That charge, the most serious against him, carries a maximum prison sentence of 2 1/3 years to 7 years.
He is not accused of stealing money from the district. Prosecutors say he changed computer records to conceal the theft of others and then presented those altered records to investigators.
Miller’s attorney, William Petrillo of Rockville Centre, said his client’s firm went out of business earlier this year and the state is expected to strip his accountng license since he has pleaded guilty to a felony.
“The district attorney’s misleading attack on a highly respected judge is as unprecedented and uncalled for as his recommendation of an upstate sentence” for Miller, Petrillo said. “My client has led an exemplary life. He made a mistake, an error in judgement. For the district attorney to take this position is absurd.”