Lawyer: Cuomos unfairly targeted
GALLITZIN – The attorney representing the father-son duo named in an alleged embezzlement scheme in Gallitzin Township said his clients were unfairly targeted in the investigation.
Christopher S. Cuomo, 41, 245 Amsbry Road, was “collateral damage” in the investigation of more than $114,000 embezzled from the township, his attorney Paul J. Eckenrode said.
Police said Christopher Cuomo’s father, Leonard S. Cuomo, 75, 245 Amsbry Road, used his powers as township secretary and treasurer to steal $114,835.30 from the township and issued illegal checks totaling about $3,773 to his son.
But the $3,773 was payment Christopher Cuomo earned for odd-jobs and snow plowing he did for the township, Eckenrode said.
“If they needed it, he would do it for them,” Eckenrode said. “It wasn’t unusual for him to get checks like that.”
Gallitzin Township supervisors said Christopher Cuomo was not a full-time employee of the township.
“At times, they used to get him to plow snow,” Gallitzin Township Supervisor Michael Racz said.
But to the best of his knowledge, that was the extent of Christopher Cuomo’s work with the township, Racz said.
Eckenrode also represents Leonard Cuomo, who is charged with multiple felonies including theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property.
Cuomo suffered a stroke in February 2012 and was hospitalized in Pittsburgh, Eckenrode said.
His client is currently confined to a wheelchair, requires constant care and is unable to communicate with investigators, Eckenrode said.
In April 2012, Gallitzin Township supervisors hired Kotzan CPA & Associates to investigate possible fraud in the township’s finances.
Christopher Cuomo turned over every available township document his father had to investigators, Eckenrode said.
Police said records from 2005 were absent from the findings.
Eckenrode contends some documents were destroyed in a flood. And Cuomo’s current mental and physical state has left him unable to communicate where any remaining records are.
“Unfortunately, Leonard is unable to tell his side right now. I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to tell it, to be honest with you,” Eckenrode said.
But sources contend checks totaling more than $114,000 were explicitly written by Cuomo in his own name.
According to his arrest papers, Cuomo said the funds were used to purchase office supplies and other expenses but did not provide any receipts or documentation.
Eckenrode said the investigation was a “witch hunt” following Cuomo’s recent medical emergencies.
Racz, who lives down the road from the Cuomo residence, said allegations of hostility between himself, supervisors and Leonard Cuomo are false. Racz said he used to routinely drive Cuomo to and from township meetings.
“There was no bad blood between us,” Racz said.
But Racz said he could not comment on the ongoing investigation.
“Please keep me out of it,” he said.
What knowledge, if any, former township employees had of the allegations against Cuomo is unknown.
Glenn Noel, a former township supervisor who served during Cuomo’s tenure, did not return calls for comment.
Sources said the township’s auditors resigned in 2012 after allegations of fraud arose.
Former Gallitzin Township auditor Thomas J. Clossin Jr. declined to speak with the Mirror. Former township auditor Bernard F. Karabinos Sr. did not return calls for comment.
Eckenrode said he might recuse himself from representing Leonard Cuomo should a conflict of interest arise.
The Cuomo men are scheduled to attend a preliminary hearing at 1 p.m. April 25 before Magisterial District Judge Charity L. Nileski.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.