Former Utica CSD superintendent arrested for allegedly using taxpayer funds to pay for political campaigns

Former Utica Mayor Louis LaPolla also arrested

UTICA, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) — Former Utica City School District superintendent Bruce Karam was arrested on Tuesday, Nov. 21 for misappropriating funds, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara.

Karam — along with former Utica Mayor Louis LaPolla — were charged with allegedly using taxpayer funds to pay for political campaigns and a non-school related fundraiser.

Investigators with the Oneida County District Attorney, the State Comptroller, and the New York State Police determined that Karam was using school money and resources to send election mailers. Those mailers were in support of school board candidates that he favored and that determined his contract, salary and authority.

“The diversion of funds meant to support the education and well-being of students by high-ranking school officials is an appalling betrayal of the public trust,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Instead of serving the students of the district who they were duty-bound to help, these two defendants allegedly chose to serve themselves. Thanks to my partnership with District Attorney McNamara and the State Police they will now be held accountable for their crimes.” 

He was also accused of allegedly using school resources to send invitations for a fundraiser for a purported charity run by LaPolla. LaPolla was arrested by the FBI in September on mail fraud charges stemming from that charity.

Fliers from that fundraiser were also allegedly inserted by district employees. According to the district attorney, LaPolla was aware those resources were being used on his behalf.

According to McNamara, Karam allegedly tried to cover up his actions by attempting to persuade employees to say those resources were being used for a valid purpose.

“These individuals deliberately stole funds intended to enrich education for students of the Utica City School District, all for personal fulfillment,” State Police Acting Superintendent Dominick Chiumento said in a statement. “Because of the strong collaboration among law enforcement, we were able to expose this fraud. I thank the Comptroller’s office and Oneida County District Attorney’s Office for their partnership in these arrests. The State Police will continue to hold those accountable whose actions hurt our community, and the well-being of children.”

According to the state comptroller, the value of all the misappropriated funds totaled over $14,000, including almost $10,000 in stamps.

Karam and LaPolla were both arraigned in Oneida County Court. They are both being charged with:

  • fourth-degree Grand Larceny, a Class E felony, and
  • Public Corruption.

Karam was charged with additional counts of those two charges, as well as a charge of third-degree Corruption of the Government, which is also a Class E felony.

Both Karam and LaPolla are scheduled to return to Oneida County Court on Friday, Dec. 1.

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