Ex-Greene County town supervisor receives probation for $25K hurricane aid fraud

No jail time will be given to a former Greene County town supervisor who tried to defraud the state of roughly $25,000 for repairs to his family’s business after Tropical Storm Irene.

Kory O’Hara, 45, who served as town supervisor of Prattsville from 2007 to 2016, was not found guilty and was instead placed on probation for a year, as asked by his defense counsel.

Sentencing took place Thursday before Senior U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin, who ordered him to pay almost $24,915 in restitution to the state and a $5,000 fine.

In July, O’Hara entered a guilty plea to federal charges of wire fraud.

The defendant’s deceit would deserve punishment “if the defendant were not an elected person,” said the deputy U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland.

In a memorandum to the judge last month, Cyrus Rieck, the attorney, made this assertion.
No one, including elected officials, is above the law, and the defendant’s felony conviction will serve as a reminder of that fact.

“If elected officials do not follow our most basic norms of conduct—for example, do not commit fraud—then no one can be trusted to comply with the law.”

O’Hara faced a possible sentence of four to ten months in jail under federal sentencing guidelines. Rieck suggested a probationary period of one to five years.

As part of his guilty plea, O’Hara waived his right to appeal a sentence of 14 months or less.

Less than 800 people lived in Prattsville when the tropical storm, which had begun as a hurricane, pounded the area in August 2011.

People were evacuated to higher ground as the Schoharie Creek overflowed its banks and caused flooding.

The reconstruction of homes and businesses, as well as the construction of two new bridges, the revitalization of Prattsville’s Main Street, and the construction of a leisure complex, all necessitated federal assistance.

About tens of thousands of dollars were allegedly misappropriated by town authorities, according to allegations published in the Times Union two years after O’Hara’s departure.

O’Hara labeled the allegations “nonsense,” and he underlined that he had lost his family-run business, O’Hara’s Service Station, as well as suggesting that the criticism was motivated by politics.

But O’Hara admits he did something illegal by entering a guilty plea.

O’Hara and Stephen Baker, proprietors of the Prattsville mobile home park Moore’s Homes, were charged in November 2019 on counts of conspiracy to conduct wire fraud, wire fraud, and theft related to a federally funded program.

O’Hara was also accused of bank fraud and providing false information on a loan application, which led to additional charges.

According to the prosecution, the men plotted to get O’Hara reimbursed from government storm funding for building work that was never completed.

Baker supplied O’Hara phoney invoices from Moore’s Homes between November 2013 and March 2015 to make it appear as though work had been done on O’Hara’s Service Station.

For the purpose of settling the outstanding bills, O’Hara cut checks payable to Moore’s Homes. Baker gave the cash back after receiving it.

O’Hara fraudulently claimed $24,915 in New York Main Street Program grants by submitting fake invoices to his municipality and the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corp.

According to the indictment, O’Hara submitted bogus invoices and reimbursement checks to the state Department of State and Comptroller’s Office to fraudulently obtain Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant money for Prattsville.

To the misdemeanor charge of “providing a fraudulent instrument for filing,” Baker entered a guilty plea in Prattsville town court. His federal accusations were dropped.

In a sentencing brief, O’Hara’s attorney in Albany, Lauren Owens, argued that her client had used the money for its intended purpose even if it had been illegal for her client to exchange checks with Baker.

Owens praised Mr. O’Hara, saying, “Mr. O’Hara is a humble leader, who is best described as hard-working, loyal, and caring.”

“His friends and family were astonished to hear about the criminal allegations against him, and many of them are aware of the blowback he has suffered as a result of the extensive press coverage, which has been amplified in a relatively small community similar to the town of Prattsville.”

Source: Times Union

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