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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Cohoes Mayor Pleads Guilty to Stealing Campaign Contributions

Shawn Morse Used Campaign Contributions for His Personal Benefit

ALBANY, NEW YORK – Shawn Morse, age 52, the Mayor of Cohoes, New York, pled guilty today to a wire fraud scheme to defraud his 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).

During the guilty plea, Morse admitted that he and his campaign treasurer, Ralph Signoracci, solicited and received contributions to his political committee the “Friends of Shawn Morse” and a political action committee. Signoracci then provided some of those funds to Morse for his personal use including an August 2015 contribution of $500 Morse used to pay a personal bill.  In total, as part of the scheme, Morse personally obtained $12,250 in political contributions from at least 10 victims to pay personal expenses at hotels, restaurants, and retailers. 

As part of the scheme, Signoracci concealed the nature of the fraudulent expenditures by falsely reporting their purpose or by not reporting or disclosing them on campaign disclosure reports, as was required of local candidates for public office.  Signoracci pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on March 7, 2019. 

“Our democracy depends on honesty by public officials.  Stealing campaign funds frustrates the freedom of speech so important to the integrity of elections, undermines public faith in the process and outcome, and betrays the trust of donors.   No one is above the law, and we will continue to hold accountable politicians who put personal enrichment above public good,” said United States Attorney Jaquith.

"Public trust must be something that is cherished by all who serve in positions of public office," said James N. Hendricks, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Albany Division. "Sadly, Mr. Morse abused his position for personal gain. Today’s plea announcement should send a clear signal that the FBI will vigorously investigate any public official who attempts to use their position to enrich themselves.”

Morse pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, and faces up to 20 years in prison, a term of post-release supervision of up to 3 years, and fine of up to $250,000, when he is sentenced by Senior United States District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy on December 10, 2019.  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.

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

 

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Public Corruption
Updated August 20, 2019