FACT CHECK: 5 Biggest Lies from Debbie Preston’s Fraud Confession
Yesterday afternoon, County Executive Preston held a press conference to admit that she committed fraud by spending tens of thousands of dollars on a Town of Conklin credit card to buy new clothes, groceries, and other personal items.
She says that she paid everything back so she shouldn’t have to resign.
Only trouble is, rather than come clean, she lied about the crime at the press conference to make it look like it wasn’t that big a deal. The e-mails that exposed her show she’s lying. And the media hasn’t called her on it yet.
“Back in 2011 there was a lot going on with the flood and a lot of things.” Preston claims “just before” the flood, she set up a Discover card in the Town of Conklin’s name. She was somehow overwhelmed by the flood and began using the ‘company card’ as her own personal line of credit for clothes, flowers, groceries and more. However, she paid back every cent and was told “everything was OK” by the new town supervisor.
Lie #1) Preston said she used the card to replace her flooded stuff.
We all felt pretty bad for her when the flood hit. But we should feel worse for the dozens of other flood victims who didn’t have city credit cards to help them out.
Here’s the bigger problem: the e-mails show she had already spent $23,000 on the Conklin card in July of 2011, two months BEFORE the flood. Then she continued to spend thousands of dollars in May of 2012, 8 months AFTER the flood. So telling us she committed fraud because of the flood is a bold-faced lie.
Lie #2) The Town of Conklin knew that the credit card existed.
A reporter at the press conference asked if the card was ‘on the books’. Preston replied, “as the supervisor, [I’m] who fills out the forms on that,” implying she followed proper procedure.
But in an April 18th e-mail from a town secretary to a local attorney, it’s made very clear that she didn’t: “This account is not a known account of the Town’s and is not on our books.”
So she actually hid the existence of the card from everyone — including the town’s bookkeeper.
Lie #3) Preston used the card for a ‘couple of months in 2012’ and then paid it off immediately when the Town asked her to.
Actually, the town had no idea she was using the card in 2012 until they requested a credit report and caught the fraud.
After that, an attorney got involved. So a Conklin secretary e-mailed the attorney in April asking to get a formal written statement from Preston that the account had been paid off and closed. The attorney said it would be done by Friday.
But Debbie Preston, who was then making $90,700 a year in her new job at the county, not only seemed to ignore the request — she spent 7 times her average monthly bill over the next 30 days, putting another $3,520.58 on the card.
There’s also an interest charge from some cash she borrowed off the card.
Lie #4) “I don’t remember” when the card was opened.
She contradicts herself on this, first saying she ‘can’t exactly remember’ and then saying July of 2011 — two months before the flood.
But by July, she’s already racked up $23,524.38 in debt — so that answer was definitely not true.
Also, Conklin wasn’t getting the statements in the mail, so Preston was getting them — meaning she has a physical printout of when the card was opened and is lying about her memory.
Lie #5) No town or taxpayer money was ever used.
Stealing money, getting caught, and then paying it back doesn’t mean you never stole in the first place.
The taxpayers of Conklin were responsible for everything Preston bought — it was their tax dollars that bought it for Preston. And the taxpayers might have had to pay the debt themselves if the town supervisor hadn’t discovered the fraud — she didn’t turn herself in.
Starting in 2012, Preston was making $90,700 a year off of Broome taxpayers. But that wasn’t enough to pay for her clothes, groceries and flowers.
Meanwhile, people making a lot less who lost their homes in 2011 had to struggle to get by without using the town as a piggy bank.
(All conclusions are based on the documents leaked to the media last week as posted by WIVT and the County Executive’s press conference):