Ex-official admits theft from Rotterdam VFW
ROTTERDAM A former VFW official accused of taking an estimated $15,000 from his post will receive no jail time under a plea deal reached with the judge in his case.
Paul J. Rizzo, 32, of Woodbridge Avenue, reached the deal with Judge Frank P. Milano in Schenectady County Court, pleading guilty to the charge upon which he was indicted: third-degree grand larceny.
For that, Milano promised five years of probation and no jail time, prosecutor Laurie Cummings said.
The deal was made without involvement of the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, Cummings said. Cummings had offered a plea deal that included six months of jail time.
Milano agreed to the probation sentence after first considering it last week, Cummings said. After getting more information, the judge agreed to it Thursday.
Rizzo was accused of taking the money from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1895, at 609 Draper Ave., between December 2011 and July 2012. He was arrested in September 2012.
Rizzo had served as the post’s quartermaster, essentially its treasurer.
Cummings said she made the jail time offer because she believes Rizzo’s actions deserved it, both for the method in which he took the money and for the target, a veteran’s organization.
“It was a lot of money, it was over a long period of time, it was over months and it was calculated in the way it was done,” Cummings said. “I think he knew exactly what he was doing.”
Rizzo also worked to shift money around to cover up what he was doing, Cummings said. The money he took, Cummings said, was for the post’s charitable work.
“He pretty much wiped them out,” Cummings said. Insurance, though, has largely covered their losses.
Rizzo was accused of taking money from several accounts, as well as using a post debit card for personal use.
Cummings said Rizzo indicated in court Thursday that he took the money after a job loss.
Members of the post first realized there was a problem when a member tried to make a purchase, but was unable to, Cummings has said. After looking into it, they turned the case over to the Rotterdam Police Department.
An official with the post could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Rizzo is being represented by attorney Sven Paul. Paul confirmed the plea deal Thursday, but declined to comment further.
Rizzo still has outstanding misdemeanor counts in Niskayuna and Rotterdam in unrelated cases. In Niskayuna, he is accused of taking an Eddie Bauer stroller from his sister and listing it for sale online.
As part of his plea deal with Milano, Rizzo also agreed to stay out of trouble. If he is arrested for anything that happens between Thursday and Rizzo’s January sentencing date, Milano would not be held to the probation sentence and could sentence him to jail.
Another aspect of the VFW plea is the restitution.
In cases where insurance covers a victim’s losses, restitution is usually confined to the victim’s deductible. Rizzo’s court-ordered restitution is expected to be limited to the post’s out-of-pocket losses — its deductible — which Cummings said was low.
Cummings said the same restitution figure would have been included in the district attorney’s plea offer.
The insurance company, though, could seek the money through civil means.