Former Croton Fire Chief Gerald Munson charged with $313,000 FD theft
Jun 20, 2018
Former Croton-on-Hudson Fire Chief Gerald Munson was arraigned in Village Court on Wednesday morning in the theft of $313,000 from department coffers.
Munson, 64, who served as treasurer of the Croton Fire Council, was arraigned on two felony grand-larceny charges in connection with the theft of $312,925 over a seven-year period from January 2011 to February 2018.
Munson was arraigned before Village Justice Sam Watkins and paid $25,000 toward restitution. The charges carry sentences of up to 25 years and 15 years in state prison. Munson, who was released without bail, is due back in court on Sept. 12.
"Public corruption is a crime that hurts all of us," said Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino Jr. "We are proud of this collaboration between our office, the village of Croton-on-Hudson Police Department and the New York state Comptroller's Office to find the root cause of the misuse of public money and will continue the work needed to prosecute the case in the courts and see that justice is done."
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoil said Munson turned his back on the Croton community.
"Mr. Munson abused the trust of this community and his fellow volunteer firefighters at the Croton-on-Hudson Fire Department by allegedly stealing over $300,000," DiNapoli said.
The Croton Fire Department is part of the municipal government. Village Manager Janine King said Munson's arrest clears the way for the village board to work more closely with the Fire Council on its financial accounting.
"Now that the arrest has happened, I think the board can work more closely with the council to help them with their accounting procedures so this does not happen again," she said.
Scarpino's statement noted that Munson kept the books but had no prior qualifications or background in finance or accounting.
Village trustees have remained mum during the investigation. Mayor Brian Pugh did not return a telephone message seeking comment.
Munson, a retired Croton police officer, had twice served as fire chief. He comes from a long line of Munsons who have served in the Croton volunteer fire services since the early 1900s. Four generations of Munsons have served as fire chief, dating back to Burlin Munson, who led the department in 1928.
Gerry Munson served as fire chief from 1986 to 1988 and from 1998 to 2000. His son, John, was chief in 2012-13, and currently serves as an assistant chief, according to the department website.
It's the latest financial scandal among volunteer fire departments in Westchester and Putnam counties. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating financial irregularities in the Briarcliff Manor Fire Council, following the resignation Michael Garcia, the Briarcliff Manor fire chief and former Fire Council treasurer.
In 2017, Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department Treasurer Michael Klein was sentenced to six years in federal prison for stealing $5.7 million over 13 years. Patterson Fire Department Treasurer Albert Melin in 2017 was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for stealing $1.1 million from the department.
The joint investigation alleged that Munson stole from state tax money given to fire departments from the state's 2 percent tax on home-insurance policies written by out-of-state insurance companies. Authorities allege that Munson manipulated bank records by under-reporting the 2 percent money received by the department to hide what he had stolen.