A former fire chief in Westchester is facing a decade behind bars after admitting to embezzling more than $100,000 from the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department.
Ossining resident Robert Garcia, 51, the former president and chief of the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department pleaded guilty to the embezzlement of more than $120,000 from the fire department in White Plains federal court this week.
Garcia was elected to the position of second assistant chief of the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department in April 2013, making him an officer of the Briarcliff Manor Fire Council, which oversees the department.
According to Geoffrey Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Garcia went on to be elected to various administrative and operational positions, including first assistant chief, chief, treasurer, and president. He was also given signatory authority over bank accounts held by the Fire Council and Briarcliff Manor Fire Department in 2013.
Beginning in May 2013, through March last year, Garcia admitted to embezzling money from the department and Fire Council by writing checks from their bank accounts, made payable to himself, with that money being used to pay personal expenses.
In an effort to cover up his embezzlement, Garcia made material misstatements regarding the purposes and payees of the checks he had written to himself on written reports he gave to the Fire Council when he acted as the fire department’s treasurer from 2014 through April 2017. In total, Garcia embezzled approximately $122,000 by writing 150 checks.
“As he admitted today, Robert Garcia abused his positions of trust with the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department and Fire Council to engage in flagrant self-dealing," Berman said. "He lined his pockets with Fire Department and Fire Council money to pay personal expenses, and then lied about it to cover his tracks. Now Garcia may be facing prison time for his crime.”
Garcia pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement-theft concerning a program receiving federal funds. Garcia is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 15, when he will face up to 10 years in prison.
“Mr. Garcia has admitted brazenly writing checks to himself for $122,000 from the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department," Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement. "Thanks to my ongoing partnership with United States Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, the FBI and the State Police, he will now be held accountable. This is a reminder to employ strong checks and balances and internal controls to guard public funds.”
“As a fire department official, Garcia was expected to be trustworthy and reliable, but, as he admitted today, he proved himself unprincipled by his deceitful actions," FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. added. "For approximately four years, Garcia abused his elected position to channel over $120,000 into his personal accounts. Instead of tending to the needs of the community, Garcia tended to his own needs.
"Corruption may be a deep-rooted plant in parts of our society, but as today’s plea demonstrates, we are committed to rooting out corruption in all of its forms.”
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