As a result of a multi-department effort that led to the arrests of part-time employees for stealing the receipts of Westchester County parking operations, a new system of controls has been put in place to prevent this type of theft in the future.
The parks department assisted detectives from the department of public safety in the year-long investigation that led to the indictment of three former hourly parks employees and the arrests of 12 others. The thefts occurred between 2009 and 2012 and involved employees pocketing money from patrons for monthly parking permits and MetroCards and then falsifying records to cover their crimes.
County Executive Robert P. Astorino said he was disgusted that employees would steal from Westchester County taxpayers. “This is a violation of the public’s trust,” he said. “As soon as allegations surfaced, I made sure the county moved quickly to find out the full extent of the problem and take the steps necessary to prevent it from happening again. Theft in any form cannot be tolerated and we must always be vigilant to prevent it.”
Parks Commissioner Kathleen O’Connor, whose department oversees the county’s parking operations, said the implementation of new controls began over a year ago, but were not disclosed publicly until now to prevent tipping off those involved in the scheme.
“Now that the criminal investigation has concluded, we can report that changes have already been made to strengthen our internal controls,” she said. “These individuals were able – at least for a while – to get around the checks and balances. We have revamped the system to address these weaknesses. We can’t prevent every theft, but we can make criminal acts more difficult to commit and easier to detect and that is what our new controls are designed to do.”
Public Safety Commissioner George N. Longworth thanked the parks department for its cooperation over the course of the investigation and praised the work of Detectives Edward Kelch and George Ruiz of the general investigations unit.
“These detectives reviewed thousands of documents and conducted a detailed investigation to identify the extent of this fraud,” Longworth said. “We believe that all persons who were criminally responsible have been identified and formally charged.”
O’Connor said that all of the employees who were implicated in the fraud were terminated following their arrests.
O’Connor said that changes made by the parks department include:
• Appointing a new parking supervisor
• Requiring the financial staff assigned to the county center to report directly to the administrative division at parks department headquarters
• Limiting the number of parking permits distributed at any one time to the parking office staff that handles sales to the public
• Installing security cameras in parking offices and booths
• Installing a new point-of-sale system with increased controls and reporting