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Eldred School Business Official arrested on three felony charges

February 15, 2013

Former Eldred School Business Official William Thornton was arrested on Friday, February 15 and charged with three felony counts related to the theft of $20,000 from district funds in November. He was arraigned later in the day in the Town of Highland Court on the following charges: two counts of grand larceny in the third degree (both class D felonies); and one count of falsifying business records in the first degree, a class E felony.

Eldred Central Schools had received a $20,000 restitution check from Thornton in late December, but to date has been unable to cash it. Thornton voluntarily turned himself into New York State Police.

"We're happy that this mailer has finally made it into the court so that it can be resolved," said Superintendent Robert M. Dufour. "While we were relieved the funds were restored several months ago, we were unable to move forward until charges had been filed."

The district first learned money was missing from district accounts in November 2012. Shorty afterwards, the Eldred Board of Education requested and accepted Thornton's unconditional resignation. A criminal complaint was filed at the time, and according to a press release, the district then initiated a forensic audit that revealed $20,000 had been stolen. The audit also detailed a number of steps the district should take to provide additional safeguards in the future.

An auditor from Cooper Niemann & Company, based in Mongaup Valley, presented the audit findings to the Eldred Board of Education on January 10. "Overall, the audit found a variety of ways we can strengthen our internal controls to prevent future circumstances of fraud or mistakes," board president Douglas Reiser said.

"Some of these recommendations are based on ensuring safe practices, and not because any evidence was found of either fraud or mistakes in those areas." Some of the recommendations were already put into practice prior to the release of the audit’s findings, and Reiser said the district is taking steps to implement the remainder of the recommendations.