One of Mount Vernon’s top lawyers was in an unfamiliar position in court on Wednesday when he was indicted for allegedly using city water department funds to help pay for Mayor Richard Thomas’ criminal defense legal team and hire a public relations firm.
Lawrence Porcari Jr., the city’s Corporation Counsel pleaded not guilty in Westchester County Court on Wednesday, May 29, to a felony charge of first-degree corrupting the government. He allegedly was involved in using $365,000 from the city’s water department to assist the mayor.
Porcari was also charged with one count of grand larceny as a crime of public corruption, defrauding the government and four counts of offering a false instrument for filing, all felonies.
Following his arraignment, Porcari was released without bail. City officials had no immediate comments on Wednesday morning.
According to documents filed with the Westchester County Court, Porcari allegedly misappropriated funds from the City of Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply to pay law firms for the personal defense of Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas in criminal proceedings, as well as a public relations firm hired at the time of Thomas’s arrest in March 2018.
“New York has zero tolerance for those who cheat taxpayers, commit fraud, or violate the public trust,” Attorney General Letitia James stated. “My office is committed to rooting out corruption and bringing bad actors to justice at every level of government and in every corner of this state. Working closely with Comptroller (Thomas) DiNapoli, we will continue to diligently pursue public integrity issues so that the people of New York get the good government that they deserve.”
James said that the approval for the rate of payment for one of the law firms and the public relations firm was sought from the City’s Board of Estimate and Contract on multiple dates in April and May of 2018 but was never obtained.
Instead, Porcari allegedly arranged for payments from the funds from the Board of Water Supply, which consists of money paid by customers for their use of water and whose use is limited by state and local law to Board of Water Supply purposes.
The scheme allegedly continued into the fall last year with payments from the Board of Water Supply to a second firm later retained for Thomas’s defense. To further the scheme, Porcari allegedly submitted memos to the Board of Water Supply for “emergency” payments to the law firms, including memorandums containing false statements.
Following his arraignment, Porcari was ordered to surrender his passport. He is scheduled to appear in court on June 5. If he is convicted, he faces a maximum term of eight and a third to 20 years in prison.
“Mr. Porcari allegedly violated both his duty as a public servant and as an attorney by diverting public money and falsifying records” DiNapoli added. “I will continue to partner with Attorney General Letitia James to expose corruption and protect taxpayer funds.”
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