Former area attorney arrested for larceny

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By Jay Braman Jr.
A Woodstock attorney, with ties to the Margaretville area, has been arrested and charged with felony grand larceny for allegedly stealing over $220,000 from the volunteer fire department where he was the treasurer.

According to Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office investigated the matter, Dale Hughes Jr., 64, was charged with stealing $221,385 from the Woodstock Fire Company over a span of about five years, from 2006 through 2011.

Margaretville practice
Hughes formally worked for Margaretville Attorney Dennis Metnick and was a representative of the Roxbury Arts Group on the steering committee of the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, an organization devoted to the fruition of the long-planned center in Mount Tremper.

On Monday, Metnick said that Hughes’ connection with his law firm was short lived, with Hughes working for the firm for only a matter of months back in the late 1990s. Metnick said he and Hughes “went separate ways” but that Hughes, immediately following his departure from Metnick law, rented space in Metnick’s Main Street building for over a year and had a private practice. In 2000 Hughes vacated the space.

In a prepared statement, Metnick outlined his disappointment in the matter between Hughes and the fire company. “I am deeply saddened by this turn of events,” Metnick wrote. “Having known Dale reasonably well, I am shocked that he would allegedly attempt such a subterfuge on the Woodstock Fire Department. Having represented our fire district for a number of years on a pro bono basis, I have always believed that you give what you can to these brave and uncompensated public servants.”

Metnick continued, “You never take from them in any way which might be deemed self serving. Self-serving is the opposite of what they do and they should be treated with that in mind. They are far too important to the communities they serve to be treated with anything less than the utmost respect and care. Shame on him. Should he be found guilty of the acts of which he is accused, whatever a court decides as his punishment for such a heinous act is fully deserved and should be meted out to the fullest extent of the law.”

On Tuesday, Roxbury Arts group Administrative Assistant Marlene Feldman said that Hughes is no longer involved with the organization.

How he did it
According to an audit report prepared by the state comptroller, Hughes endorsed 83 checks worth a total of $200,385 and made them payable to “cash.” Auditors claim that Hughes also stole $21,000 in cash proceeds from various pancake breakfast fundraisers held to support the fire company.
An investigation began in May 2011 after a $10,000 fire company check bounced. The check was to pay for a new fire truck bay at the firehouse.

Hughes, who was treasurer from 1997 to 2011 and is currently the fire company’s vice president, began paying the funds back after being questioned by other fire company officials shortly after the check bounced. By July 2012 Hughes had restored about $170,000 to fire company coffers.
If convicted, Hughes faces five to 15 years in prison.