According to the complaint (see below), Rogers, as vice president and treasurer of the now defunct Sheriff’s Employees Association of Rensselaer County, spent more than $3,000 of the union’s money on strip clubs, restaurants and ring-side seats for boxing matches. Mark Piche, now a former CO, was president of the union. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to paying workers off the books at his family’s restaurant, the Red Front, which equates to tax evasion and resigned his position at the jail.
Now that formal criminal charges are filed, Rogers, who was making his $75,000-plus salary since 2011 when he was suspended by Sheriff Jack Mahar, is now off the payroll for 30 days. He will then return to the payroll while the criminal case winds its way through the court system.
At that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, through the FBI, began an investigation but issued an unprecedented letter to Rogers in December, 2014 exonerating him of all criminality. But, the letter did indicate any and all information was passed on to the AG’s office.
“Those who hold positions of trust must be held to the highest standards of professional conduct,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “We take allegations of misuse of funds contributed by dues-paying union members very seriously. Cases like this represent a betrayal of both the union’s members and its mission.”
According to the complaint – charging Rogers with four felonies including two counts of grand larceny and two counts related to forging a union check – there are three witnesses. Witness 1 told Witness 2 that he saw Rogers use the union debit card at a strip club. Witness 2 told authorities he reviewed the books and saw that Rogers did use the debit card to pay for personnel expenses unrelated to union activity.
The third witness told authorities that Pugnacious Promotions, a company that promotes local boxers and boxing matches, sponsored an event in July, 2010 and on Feb. 3, 2011. For the first, Witness 2 told authorities Rogers cut a union check for $1,200, the price of a ring-side seat. For the second, he was given a union check for $400 but altered it to $600, again the price of a ring-side seat. The complaint states other union members did not know about the expenditure and were not given the opportunity to see the fight.
Rogers, I’m told by reliable sources, turned down a plea deal offered by the feds and I’m told now he won’t accept a plea deal now – should one be offered. But, the feds didn’t formally charge him so he might feel the pressure more to plea out and avoid jail time.
But, if the case does go to trial, it could be a year or two out and Rogers will be back on the payroll after 30 days so that could be an incentive for him to drag his feet too.
Rogers also filed a civil suit against Mahar and Rensselaer County accusing the sheriff and staffers of improperly accessing his medical records. That is still pending.
As far as the witnesses go, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who they are.
Witness 1, I’m willing to bet, is Piche. He was under the federal eye along with Rogers but pled to tax evasion and got a slap on the wrist. It’s long been known that part of that plea was to testify against Rogers. The two were president and vice president and were hang out buddies – and were known to hit the strip clubs and restaurants.
Witness 2, has to be Christopher Fumarola since he was never under any suspicion and had access to the union’s books. So did the authorities, I suppose, but they need someone to tell them – and any potential jury – what the numbers actually mean.
The third is obviously someone involved with Pugnacious Promotions.
The bottom line is did Rogers, who was duly elected by the union membership, have the authority to spend union money as he saw fit? And, even if he did have that authority, did he overstep that responsibility and use union funds for his personnel benefit.
I guess that’s what jury trials are for.
Whatever the answer or the outcome, I hope someone does something to stop paying him for sitting home.