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Auditor: More money missing from Marina Fund

November 15, 2018

STAMFORD - The amount of money missing from the city’s Marina Fund, originally thought to be about $60,000, may be closer to $100,000.

Former Marina Supervisor Sean Elumba has admitted stealing $60,600 by using city accounts to purchase items he then sold. Now an internal audit begun shortly after Elumba’s June arrest has turned up $32,000 in further misappropriations.

“We have discovered in the audit some additional losses that we are still finalizing,” Director of Administration Michael Handler told members of the Board of Finance at their November meeting.

The audit is ongoing, so it is unclear whether Elumba originated purchase orders for any of the amount now in question. City Auditor Teresa Viscariello said she expects to have a report ready in January.

Finance board members wanted to know whether the city will be repaid if the audit finds that additional misappropriations can be attributed to Elumba, who pleaded guilty to felony first-degree larceny in September. A judge gave him an eight-year suspended sentence and four years of probation, with no jail time.

A condition of Elumba’s probation “is that full restitution be made,” Handler told the board. “When we conclude the audit, we’ll report back to the state’s attorney’s office and they will tack on the additional amount to his probation,” he said.

To pay the city back, Elumba turned over his 26-foot Regulator fishing boat, believed to be worth about $60,000. Handler told the finance board that Fleet Manager Mike Scacco is having the boat appraised.

“We are looking to sell it as quickly as we can,” Handler said.

Scacco said Wednesday three appraisers viewed the boat and he expects their reports by the end of the week.

“It’s not in the water, so they couldn’t start it and see how it runs, but they appeared to take a thorough look at it,” Scacco said. “They have not shared anything with me about the value.”

The 2004 boat has two Yamaha engines, a center console and a trailer, Scacco said. He doesn’t know the condition of the electronics, wiring or other elements that wear out in salt water, he said.

Finance board members said during their meeting they are concerned about whether the city will be repaid if the boat is worth less than the original assessment, or further misappropriations are unearthed.

Member David Kooris said the state’s attorney’s office might be able to garnish Elumba’s wages.

“It sounds like … he’s on the hook for the entire amount,” Kooris said.

“But if he doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t have the money, what are we going to do?” asked board member Sal Gabriele.

“I’ll be very surprised if we see all of it,” said Mary Lou Rinaldi, another member.

Contacted Wednesday, State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo said his first concern in the Elumba case is making the city whole.

“If it’s brought to my attention that the value of the restitution is less than it’s supposed to be, then I will make sure I address it,” Colangelo said. “If an additional amount can be attributed to Mr. Elumba or his conduct, that could be covered by his probation.”

Board members asked whether Elumba will receive a pension. Handler said Elumba did not work for the city long enough to be eligible, but he contributed toward a pension through payroll deductions, and that money will be returned to him.

But Rinaldi, who is acting chair of the city’s Classified Employees Retirement Fund, said the trustees voted last month to request that the human resources director draft a letter to the Secretary of the State asking that Elumba’s pension contributions be returned to CERF.

“It’s only about $5,000 or $6,000,” Rinaldi said. “But it’s something.”

She had a question for Handler.

“Many people have asked me, ‘Why is it that when employees steal money from the city, nobody ever goes to jail?’” Rinaldi said. “Why didn’t this guy do jail time?”

He reached a plea deal, Handler said.

“This is the system we live in,” he said. “We’ve deemed it cheaper to rehabilitate outside the system than inside the system.”

Board Chairman Richard Freedman said sentences in such cases seem to depend on the amount of the municipal theft.

“If you steal half a million dollars or a million dollars, your chances of going to jail are much higher,” Freedman said.

That appeared to be the pattern in a pair of back-to-back Stamford cases in 2010. In the first, a former human resources specialist, Fred Manfredonia, was charged with stealing $350,000 from city accounts over several years. Manfredonia pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison.

In the other, city accountant James Santorella, charged with embezzling a much smaller amount, $21,000, received a five-year suspended jail sentence and five years of probation. Santorella had to pay back what he took plus $117,000 the city spent on an audit of his department. He did no jail time.

Rinaldi had another question.

“So what’s the message to city employees about being honest?” she asked Handler.

“It’s our job to make sure we have the proper controls in place,” Handler said. “Then the message is, ‘If you do something like this, we’ll figure it out and eventually get you.’”

Elumba had access to city accounts set up with certain vendors for purchasing materials needed to repair the municipal marinas. He admitted to buying items not needed for the marinas then selling them for cash.

If Elumba violates his probation, he could be sent to prison for all or part of his eight-year suspended sentence.

acarella@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2296.

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