Ex-agency head pleads guilty to grand larceny

JOHNSTOWN – The former executive director of Adirondack Mentoring Partners pleaded guilty today in County Court less than a year after she was charged with using the nonprofit’s funds to pay herself for more than two years while also illegally collecting unemployment benefits.

Margaret Shaver, 40, of 913 County Highway 112 in the town of Johnstown, pleaded guilty to one count of grand larceny before Judge Felix J. Catena at the Fulton County Courthouse this morning.

Under a plea arrangement with the district attorney’s office, she is expected to receive 90 days in jail and five years of probation. She also will pay tens of thousands in restitution and waive her right to appeal, Assistant District Attorney James Riley said.

She will be sentenced at 10:30 a.m. April 25 at the courthouse. If she had been found guilty at trial, she could have faced 28 months to seven years in state prison.

Shaver entered the courtroom in a dark shirt, scarf and sunglasses at 9:20 a.m. and sat alone at the defense table. Her attorney, Bob Abdella of Gloversville, joined her five minutes later. She spoke quietly, answering Catena’s questions with “yes, sir,” including when he asked if she had stolen property.

When Catena asked her what property she’d stolen, she replied “money.”

Under terms of the plea, Shaver will be required to pay $75,398.76 in restitution before sentencing to Adirondack Mentoring Partners, the United Way of Fulton County and the state Department of Labor.

Shaver declined to comment after sentencing.

Todd Rulison, president of the United Way Board of Directors, said this morning the agency has cooperated with the investigation and looks forward to the case’s resolution.

“There were a lot of issues involved in the case,” Abdella said. “We decided in light of the potential [prison] time she’d be facing, it was not in her best interest to move forward in that direction.”

Shaver initially was charged by Gloversville police on April 18 with felony grand larceny and four misdemeanor counts of second-degree falsifying business records for taking about $40,000 in nonprofit funds.

On Aug. 22, state police followed, charging her with falsifying business records and grand larceny for allegedly collecting $37,857 in unemployment benefits.

City police said Shaver began siphoning off funds from the former Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in April 2009, after she was told the nonprofit couldn’t afford to pay employees. Police said she continued to “sporadically pay herself wages and benefits she was no longer entitled to” through June 2011.

In June 2011, three of Adirondack Mentoring Partners’ board members told police they suspected money was missing from accounts. In October 2011, they provided police with a copy of their audit, and city detectives and state Financial Services investigators followed up with their own audit.

State police brought the second round of charges after an investigation with the state Labor Department and the state Banking & Finance Department.

Adirondack Mentoring Partners, which was funded through a $10,000 United Way grant, organized an after-school mentoring program where high school athletes worked with elementary students in Fulton and Montgomery counties.

Police said the program did not exist in 2009-10, even though the nonprofit received the funding and provided reports to the United Way.

Shaver was not having money problems during the time she was taking the funds, Abdella said in August. When the organization was known as Big Brothers Big Sisters, she earned $40,000 as executive director.