Written by Matthew A. Piacentini Friday, 01 October 2010 00:00
Residents were horrified to find out this week that a retired dispatcher at the Glen Cove Fire Department was charged with stealing more than $196,000 over a six-year period from the department’s general fund. District Attorney Kathleen Rice released that George William Gray wrote himself hundreds of checks, during the 20 years he controlled the general fund.
Mayor Ralph V. Suozzi told the Record Pilot that when Gray retired the Fire Department discovered discrepancies in the bookkeeping and brought them to his attention. He said there were enough disparities to warrant hiring an auditor and then to take it to the district attorney.
The investigation resulted in the arrest of Gray, 68, of Hendersonville, NC by DA Investigators. He was charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, 104 counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, and three misdemeanor charges of Official Misconduct. He faces up to five to 15 years in prison if convicted and is due back in court Oct. 4.
Mayor Suozzi said that his main concern was how this affects the Glen Cove Fire Department.
He told the Record Pilot, “This was an unfortunate event that is not reflective of all the men and women serving in the fire department in Glen Cove and all over Long Island. They are an outstanding group of people - some of the finest this community has ever seen. Everyone involved here did the right thing, except for this one person who allegedly did something wrong for reasons we don’t know.”
DA Rice said that Gray, who retired in March 2009 after working for the City of Glen Cove for 34 years as a fire dispatcher, served as a volunteer firefighter for the City of Glen Cove Fire Department for 44 years. For approximately 20 of those years, Gray was the chairman of the department’s fund drive, whose sole source of funds was volunteer donors. The funds were maintained in an account supervised by Gray and intended for distribution to the department and the four volunteer fire companies that make up the department.
According to the district attorney, between May 10, 2003 and March 6, 2009, Gray wrote approximately 300 checks payable to cash, to himself, and to his personal credit card accounts, including checks to pay for model railroad equipment and gourmet cigars. As mentioned, on more than 100 of the checks, Gray forged the signature of the department’s treasurer, Rice stated.
“This defendant not only preyed on the generosity of Glen Cove residents, but he stole money from the volunteer men and women who put their lives on the line to protect their community,” Rice said.
Assistant District Attorney William Jorgenson of the Public Corruption Bureau is handling the case for the DA’s Office. Gray is represented by Peter Bongiorno, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.