Former DEC project manager pleads guilty to running contractor fraud scheme

A former Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) project manager pleaded guilty today to charges that he operated an elaborate contractor fraud scheme while employed by the state.

David Comenale, 51, of Comenale Ct., New York Mills, appeared in Oneida County Court today and pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree grand larceny, both felonies; and second-degree forgery also a felony.

The forgery charge is in connection to a bank loan fraud case for which he was previously indicted by the Oneida County district attorney following a separate investigation.

As part of the plea agreement, Comenale is to pay $167,000 restitution to cover both cases.

The two-year investigation by Inspector General Leahy Scott found Comenale used his position as a DEC project manager to implement a complex scheme to secure and dispense funds purportedly meant for a construction project on Staten Island by siphoning the money into shell companies he controlled.

The investigation showed he ran the scheme in 2013 by borrowing $62,500 from an asbestos abatement company he routinely worked with, Midlantic Environmental, Inc. Comenale said the funds were to pay for electrical work at the Cardinal O'Connor Lighthouse on Staten Island and that Midlantic would be reimbursed by the state through another contractor routinely used for DEC projects.

Just $21,000 went for electrical work at the job site and much of the rest was siphoned through several companies controlled or owned by Comenale, and was never used for a DEC project, the investigation showed.

In addition, the investigation found that in 2014 Comenale used another contractor he routinely worked with for DEC projects to steal approximately $26,000 through a fraudulent loan scheme involving Adirondack Bank. The contractor took out the loan and immediately turned over the money Comenale through a separate company Comenale controlled.

Comenale is due back in Oneida County court for sentencing on Nov. 28, 2016.


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