Six Harrison town employees face misdemeanor petit larceny charges after police say they were caught taking clothes and food from the Harrison Food Pantry throughout a two-month investigation.
Harrison Public Works employees Joseph Arcara, 54, his cousin Jack Arcara, 48, and Adam Straface, 26, turned themselves in to police on Feb. 15, along with Florence D’Imperio, 91, her son William D’Imperio, 51, and Sherry Toplyn, 58.
All six work full or part-time for the town of Harrison.
The investigation into the food pantry began two months ago, Harrison Police confirmed Tuesday. Arrest records obtained by Patch confirm that police have video evidence of at least some of the thefts taking place.
Florence D’Imperio faces eight counts of petit larceny, Joseph Arcara faces six counts, Toplyn and Jack Arcara face five counts, William D’Imperio faces two counts and Straface faces a single count.
Offense dates varied for each employee with the exception of Joseph Arcara and Straface who were both listed as committing thefts on Dec. 20, 2010. During an interview with police Straface admitted that he and Joseph Arcara stole multiple food and clothing items from the food pantry on that date, according to his arrest report.
Straface gave police a gray long-sleeved Andy Warhol shirt and a pair of Ralph Lauren cargo shorts, according to his arrest report.
While interviewing Toplyn police seized a handbag that they say she used to conceal a pair of women's shoes she took from the pantry.
The other thefts took place between Dec. 29, 2010 and Jan. 26, 2011, all on separate dates, according to the arrest reports.
The investigation is continuing and more charges are possible in the near future, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Harrison Police Department.
Florence D’Imperio served as Harrison Meals on Wheels Treasurer and was the Harrison Citizen of the Year in 2001. William D’Imperio is a supervisor in the Harrison Parks Department and worked with Joe and Jack Arcara as well as Straface. Toplyn had organized and operated a new program at the for the last six months.
A source told Patch last week that the stolen food was being re-sold for profit, but that information has not been confirmed.
The town suspended all of the employees without pay last week. Florence D'Imperio and Toplyn have resigned from their positions, said a source with knowledge of the situation.
"It's upsetting to all of us," Harrison Mayor/Supervisor Joan Walsh said Tuesday, adding that the department of public works and food pantry will continue to operate without interruption. The Job S.E.A.R.C.H program formerly run by Toplyn will also continue under new leadership.
It is not clear how much was stolen or for how long the alleged thefts were taking place before the investigation began. The Food Bank of Westchester said they become aware of the situation before the arrests when Nina Marraccini, Harrison's director of community services, informed them that there may be a problem.
The county food bank provides some food to the Harrison pantry, but since they only deliver to Harrison once a month they suspect that the missing goods were donated locally, according to Christina Rohatynskyj, the county food bank's executive director.
"I don't think it's a whole lot," she said, noting that food brought in from outside of town is sent to needy families only a few days after the Harrison Food Pantry receives them.
The county food bank is conducting its own investigation into the matter, but Rohatynskyj said she doesn't suspect the incident will affect Harrison's standing with the Food Bank of Westchester, adding that the Harrison Food Pantry has had no problems in the past.
"We are going to have to meet with them to talk about security and inventory control and things like that, then we will make the determination," Rohatynskyj said.
Petit larceny is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, according to state law. The charge typically means that less than $1,000 was stolen.
All six employees are due to appear in town court March 1.
The town does not intend to take steps to terminate the employees until they have gone to court, Walsh said. But the mayor did on the part of the Harrison Town Board if the employees are found guilty.
The delivers food to about 80 low-income Harrison families and accepts cash donations from local organizations on an on-going basis. Last year the pantry accepted thousands of dollars from groups including the and the .