News10NBC Investigates: Checks Sent to Monroe County Clerk’s Office Stolen, Altered and Cashed
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Money sent to the Monroe County Clerk’s Office to pay mortgage discharge fees has been stolen. At least 16 checks, sent by banks on behalf of their customers to the Clerk’s office in late May were taken, altered, forged and cashed. The known-theft currently amounts to about $32,000 but investigators believe there may be other victims.
News10NBC was first to report on a criminal investigation underway involving the Monroe County Clerk’s Office over the weekend. On Monday, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke directly with County Clerk Jamie Romeo and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Eric Mezzoprete.
Jennifer Lewke – How much money does this amount to and do you know whether the checks made it to your office specifically or were intercepted before then?
Jamie Romeo – So, we can’t speak to a lot of the specifics but we do believe at this time it was about $32,000 that was stolen from the checks that were originally issued for the county.
Jennifer Lewke – Have any of your employees been suspended or fired as a result of what you found when looking into this situation?
Jamie Romeo – So, this is still an ongoing (criminal) investigation and we’re still allowing that to run its course, we have… I can’t comment to any of those particulars at this time but again, once the investigation is concluded we will be able to share those findings and take any additional steps that we may need to take.
Jennifer Lewke – These checks were stolen in route to the clerk’s office, there’s going to be plenty of taxpayers who say, “well if you’re not willing to say someone’s been fired or suspended, you don’t know exactly where the problem is and how do I ensure that my money is safe with the clerk?”
Jamie Romeo – I think that we would just reiterate that we have seen no further instances of this since we were first made aware of it. We’ve taken a number of steps internally but we’re going to allow this criminal investigation to continue and follow it and see where it leads and then if there are additional steps we are completely prepared to make those additional steps if needed.
Jennifer Lewke – Investigator, do you believe that there potentially are other victims here whether it be banks or people who don’t know that perhaps their mortgage discharge never made it through to the clerk?
Eric Mezzoprete (Monroe County Sheriff’s Office) – Yes, I suspect that there might be people that are unaware and we encourage any individual to contact the sheriff’s office should they be made aware that their check did not make it to its final destination and their mortgage wasn’t officially discharged.
Jennifer Lewke – How were you first altered to this?
Eric Mezzoprete – We got notified by the financial institutions and then we started to see a trend emerging, a pattern. I notified Ms. Romeo and immediately we shared information and the investigation commenced.
Jennifer Lewke – Are you close to making an arrest? How long do you anticipate this investigation taking?
Eric Mezzoprete – No, we expect it could take several months.
See full press conference below.