Saturday, December 23, 2006

NY comptroller resigns after pleading guilty to felony

NY comptroller resigns after pleading guilty to felony
By Holly McKenna

ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - New York state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, the state's top fiscal officer, resigned on Friday after pleading guilty to a felony charge of defrauding the government, state authorities said.

The guilty plea before Albany County Judge Stephen Herrick stemmed from a criminal probe into Hevesi's use of state workers to chauffeur his wife and his failure to immediately reimburse the state.

Sentencing is scheduled for February 9.

The felony charge carries a sentence of up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine but a spokeswoman for Albany County District Attorney David Soares told reporters that under the plea agreement, Hevesi is not likely to serve any prison time.

As comptroller, Hevesi runs the state's $147 billion pension system, one of the nation's largest, and audits state and local governments to uncover corruption and mismanagement.

The Democratic comptroller was re-elected to a second term in office in November. He resigned as of Friday morning, the spokeswoman for the district attorney said.

Hevesi became embroiled in the scandal after his little-known Republican challenger last year questioned whether the comptroller was using state employees to chauffeur his ailing wife without reimbursing the state.

Hevesi admitted to using a state driver but said his actions were prompted by security concerns for his wife.

Hevesi has repeatedly apologized and reimbursed the state over $200,000, more than twice what he originally estimated he owed the state.

In October, the state Ethics Commission found he knowingly violated the law and said there were no security threats to justify the use of state employees.