LOCKPORT, NY - Town of Niagara Supervisor Steven Richards was formally charged Friday, for what the State Attorney General calls an "ongoing scheme" to use town property and resources for his own gain.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, whose office was among many involved in the investigation, claims Richards, over the course of more than decade, "treated the town like his own personal hardware store.
Richards is accused under a 28-count indictment, which alleges that he directed town employees to pick up and deliver property to his personal business, and had them perform (while on town time and with town equipment) work at properties owned by him. Richards is also accused of stealing supplies belonging to the town, including paint, a drill, drain cleaner,...even a shotgun belonging to the Town Police Department.
"Defrauding the government, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property a number of petit larceny charges and a number of charges related to official misconduct," said NYS Assistant Attorney General Paul McCarthy, while ticking off a list of the charges faced by Richards, the most serious of which could land him in prison for up to four years if he's convicted.
"We are looking forward to vetting these allegations, and we now have an opportunity to address them in a proper legal forum.We'll see how that turns out," said Attorney Rodney Personius, who represented Richards at his State Supreme Court arraignment, where he entered a not guilty plea to all the charges on Richards' behalf.
The allegations in the indictment (which you can read in the pdf by clicking below Richards' picture to the left of this story) are alleged to have occured from 2001 through March of 2012. Richards has served as an elected official in the town for 18 years.
The usually talkative Richards had nothing to say to reporters at his court appearance, after which he was released on his own recognizance, before reporting to a nearby state police barracks to be photographed and fingerprinted.
Conviction on any felony charge would result in Richards' automatic removal from office under the New York State Officers Law. Until such time of conviction, however, he can continue to serve. His trial has been scheduled for April.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bob Mancuso. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2.