Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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October 4, 2013

Town of Niagara supervisor charged in 28-count public corruption indictment

Town of Niagara supervisor charged in 28-count public corruption indictment

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — "No public official is above the law, least of all one who used a town's property and employees to further his own interests," Schneiderman said in a statement released after Richards' arraignment. "People elected to positions of trust must be held to the highest standard, and those who abuse an office to line their own pockets will face the full legal consequences of their crimes."

Richards is charged with four felonies and 24 misdemeanor crimes. They include one count of defrauding the government, two counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, one count of fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, 11 counts of petit larceny and 13 counts of official misconduct.

“This official treated the Town of Niagara like a private hardware store,” DiNapoli said. “He had complete disregard for taxpayer property and must be held accountable for this wrongdoing."

The indictment charges that, beginning in 2001, Richards engaged in a scheme to steal goods and use town resources for his own personal benefit. Among the claims are allegations that he directed town employees to pick up and deliver property to his personal business, clean a clogged drain at his personal business, and connect a storm drain, at a residential rental property he owns, to a state storm water line.

Investigators charge that all of that work involved the use of town equipment and employees who were working on town time.

Richards is also accused of stealing numerous industrial supplies belonging to the town, including paint, a drill, and drain cleaner. He is also accused of taking a shotgun from the town police department.

Kloch released Richards on his own recognizance. He faces a maximum of two and 1/3 to seven years in state prison if convicted of the highest charges in the indictment.

Personius said Richards was ready to defend himself and had no intention of leaving the supervisor's post while the case is pending.

"Our understanding is, that as an elected official, he should be able to continue in office as he has for the last 18 years," Personius said.

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