Former village of Addison clerk-treasurer arrested, charged with stealing more than $1 million
The village of Addison in Steuben County is facing a major financial loss. The former village clerk-treasurer, Ursula Stone, was arrested earlier this month for stealing $1.1 million from village funds.
She allegedly stole the money from the village over a 19-year span.
The annual budget for Addison was just $1.6 million, according to Nelson Sheingold, chief legal officer for the state comptroller's office. Sheingold was involved in the audit investigation that uncovered Stone’s misdeeds.
Sheingold said it is clear Stone had unfettered access and discretion to money, records and accounts.
“Watch your money, put in appropriate controls, double-check everything that's going on because you don't want to be subject to the next press conference,” Sheingold said. “You don't want to have to explain to the voters what's going on and you are charged with watching the people's money.”
According to Sheingold, the annual independent village audits did not catch the financial misdeeds. The state comptroller’s office conducts regular audits of local municipalities across the state. It is not immediately clear how often the state conducts its audits due to the nearly 20 years of financial crimes alleged in this particular case.
Stone, 55, worked as the village clerk and treasurer. She was the only full-time employee. She was employed by the village from 1997 until earlier this year. She resigned in March during the course of the state’s investigation.
The investigation found Stone operated and was in charge of all financial procedures with no oversight by village officials.
“This case is kind of demonstrative of a lot of cases we see in our smaller communities where we have part-time governments,” said Brooks Baker, Steuben County district attorney. “We have essentially volunteer mayors and village boards who were doing their best and a lot of trust is placed in one person. And unfortunately that trust all too often is, as here, abused.”
Addison Mayor Robert Miles declined a request for comment.
Sheingold said tax levies for the village went up approximately $10,000 every year during Stone’s alleged scheme. She was also unlawfully increasing her salary and gave herself extra payments.
According to a press release from the state comptroller's office, the audit investigation also discovered Stone converted checks payable to the village, to certified bank checks and cashed them, including those from the Addison Central School District.
“One person cannot both write the checks and audit their own checkbook,” explained Sheingold. “There has to be reconciliation. Somebody has to be looking at the budget numbers. Somebody should be looking at what money's coming in and what's going out because you just can't have one person doing all this with no oversight whatsoever, no matter how long you've known them and know how good you think they are.”
It’s not clear if changes were made to safeguard checks and balances since the investigation began in 2022. The state comptroller’s office will have recommendations in its full report once all criminal proceedings are completed, according to Sheingold.
It is also unclear how much money, if any, can be recovered for the village.
Stone is the only person charged with crimes.
According to DA Baker, there have been a dozen public corruption cases in the county in the past decade, including the villages of Savona and Riverside. But the million dollars allegedly stolen from the village of Addison is the first he’s seen in his time with the DA’s office.
“It's unfortunate, something that happens relatively frequently,” said Baker. “We see it once or twice a year, across our county in some form or fashion. But a crime of this magnitude is a first. I've not seen one in 30 years anywhere close to this.”
Stone is facing 192 felony charges including falsifying business records, money laundering, grand larceny, and government and public corruption.
Bail was set for her at $20,000 and she is due back in Steuben County court on Jan. 24, 2024.
According to a notice on the door of the Village Hall, the monthly board of trustees meeting on Monday, Nov. 13 has been moved from the Village Hall at 6 p.m. to the Addison Community Center at 7 p.m. The notice also said that the board will meet at 6:30 p.m. and go immediately into “executive session to discuss proposed, pending, or current litigation.”