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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 28, 2019

Cohoes Mayor Indicted for Using Campaign Contributions for his Personal Benefit

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse, age 51, was arrested today on an indictment charging him with defrauding his mayoral campaign and supporters by stealing campaign contributions for his personal benefit. 

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and James N. Hendricks, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Morse is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and one count of making a false statement to the FBI. 

The charges in the indictment are merely accusations.  The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

According to the indictment, from approximately 2013 through 2018, Morse and his campaign treasurer, Ralph Signoracci, solicited and received contributions to his campaign committee, Friends of Shawn Morse, and his political action committee, The Chairman’s PAC, from area businesses and businesspeople.  Instead of using the funds for legitimate purposes, at times, Morse directed Signoracci to withdraw funds from the committees’ bank accounts so that Morse could use the funds to pay for his personal expenses.

The indictment further alleges that Morse and Signoracci concealed the nature of these expenditures by falsely reporting the purpose of the expenditures or by not reporting or disclosing them on campaign disclosure reports, as was required of local candidates for public office.  The indictment also alleges that on September 24, 2018, Morse provided false information to the FBI when asked about the scheme.

If convicted, Morse faces up to 20 years in prison, a term of post-release supervision of up to 3 years, and a fine of up to $250,000.  A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and other factors. 

Morse appeared today before United States Magistrate Judge Christian F. Hummel and entered a plea of not guilty. He was released with conditions pending a trial before Senior United States District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy.

This case is being investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Kinsella Kistler. 

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Public Corruption
Updated February 28, 2019