More than $200,000 was stolen from the Woodstock Fire Company Number Three in Ulster County, New York, after its former treasurer embezzled the funds during a scheme that lasted for more than five years.
Dale Hughes was arrested and charged with grand larceny in the first degree after an accounts payable audit revealed that he had taken a total of $200,385 from the fire department. Investigators allege that Hughes managed to embezzle the money by writing unauthorized checks from Woodstock Company's bank accounts to himself, and then depositing them into his own personal accounts. Hughes also did not give the department's executive committee adequate documentation for expenses. Additionally, company officials believe Hughes stole as much as $21,000 in cash from attendees of pancake breakfast fundraisers hosted by Woodstock.
The theft came to light when a $10,000 check that was given to pay for a new fire truck bay was rejected due to insufficient funds. Once the bounced check was brought to Hughes' attention, he attempted to cover up the illegal activity by depositing large amounts of money into the department's accounts. However, an AP audit ultimately discovered the embezzlement, which led to the charges against Hughes and his subsequent arrest.
The Office of the New York State Comptroller released a report with the audit findings along with several recommendations for the department. Investigators believe that a lack of a proper checks and balances system was one cause of the embezzlement. The Comptroller's Office suggested that Woodstock Company needs to frequently review bank and financial records to ensure that there is no misappropriation. Also, checks should no longer be made payable to cash, and there should be policies put in place that accurately account for all money that is brought in through the departments' fundraisers.