Legion’s bell-jar accounts studied

GLOVERSVILLE – The state Gaming Commission is reviewing American Legion Harold Wilmont Post 137’s handling of bell-jar ticket games.

Representatives of the post, located on Main Street, have been told to attend a “compliance conference” with the Gaming Commission at the post Tuesday, according to a letter obtained through a Freedom of Information request by The Leader-Herald.

The letter states the meeting is related to the post’s failure to comply with previous stipulations regarding thousands of dollars in bell-jar accounts.

A letter sent to post Cmdr. Gary Meher on May 15 states the post failed to comply with stipulations set forth in settlement agreements with the Gaming Commission on June 11, 2013.

The letter states the post voluntarily agreed to continue to review two categorical expenditures labeled as being “unlawful and questionable” in the commission’s audit report in order to eliminate or substantiate disbursements.

According to the letter, the audit report found unlawful expenditures to be $64,809 and questionable expenses to be $9,438.

The post failed to provide the commission with a copy of a deposit slip verifying the deposit of $31,866 into the Special Bell Jar Checking Account, the letter stated.

The letter also states the post voluntarily agreed to resolve $14,187 owed from the unreported 36 bell-jar deals sold during the audit period “immediately following the resolution of the current criminal investigation.”

The letter doesn’t identify the time frame of the audit period was or circumstances of the criminal investigation.

The letter states the stipulation was thought to have been settled May 16, 2012, but the commission can’t find the deposit slip verifications. The letter says another copy is to be provided at the meeting next week.

Christy Calicchia, a spokeswoman for the Gaming Commission, said in an email the issue is “an ongoing matter” and information can’t be provided to the media.

“The New York State Gaming Commission continues to review the matter of bell-jar ticket games with the American Legion Post 137 in Gloversville,” Calicchia wrote. “We have held several meetings with the organization and will be meeting with them again next week.”

Neither Meher nor other legion representatives returned multiple phone calls to the post last week.

Previous investigation

In 2008, an anonymous tip to the state Racing and Wagering Board prompted an investigation by the Charitable Games Unit into the Veterans of Foreign Wars Bernard W. Kierney Memorial Post 2077 finances. Later, members of the American Legion Harold Wilmont Post 137 and the Fulton County Disabled American Veterans Chapter 122 began noticing strange activity in their financial records.

Two years’ worth of forensic audits conducted by the state police Financial Crimes Unit, with the assistance of the Gloversville Police Department and investigators at the Racing and Wagering Board, showed a combined $200,000 shortfall from the three groups from January 2005 to December 2008.

Ralph R. VanAlstyne Sr. in 2011 was sentenced to two to six years in state prison after admitting to stealing at least $186,000 from the three groups.

The court ordered VanAlstyne to pay the VFW $70,930, the American Legion $50,917 and the Disabled American Veterans $65,679.

The groups claim at least $300,000 actually was taken, but authorities could prove only the theft of $186,000.

Authorities said while VanAlstyne was acting in the capacity of treasurer, financial officer or commander for these organizations, he falsified gaming records and shuffled money among several of the organizations’ bank accounts as well as his own personal accounts.

Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said Thursday she has no knowledge of the current issues between the state Gaming Commission and the American Legion.

In November 2012, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Bernard Kearney Memorial Post 2077 voted to shut down the post because of financial struggles.