Christine Stulsky, a longtime Southold Town justice court clerk, pleaded not guilty in a Suffolk County courtroom on Friday after being accused of stealing more than $50,000 from the town.
The New Suffolk resident surrendered herself to authorities, posting bond as she was charged with felony grand larceny, defrauding government, and official misconduct, a misdemeanor.
Though she was arraigned in a county courtroom, the court was acting on behalf of the Southold Town justice court, which could not arraign Ms. Stulsky due to a conflict of interest.
Speaking in front of Judge James Hudson at Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverside, Suffolk County assistant district attorney Melisa Bliss said Ms. Stulsky stole “in excess” of $50,000 from the bail postings made in town court. The funds she funneled were used for “everyday expenses,” such as groceries, pet food and cigarettes, Ms. Bliss said.
Ms. Bliss declined to comment outside the courtroom, citing an ongoing investigation.
Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said it appeared that the town’s bail account was specifically targeted, and not any accounts containing fee or fine revenues.
“The bail account is an account held in trust by the justice court; it is not mingled with town coffers or town accounts,” Mr. Russell said. “It’s just for bail money received and disbursements of bail money paid back.”
“To my knowledge it was exclusively bail money [that went missing], though the DA’s investigation Is still underway,” he said.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said in a statement that analysis of “voluminous paper and electronic records reflecting the suspect’s management of the money” is ongoing.
“We are fortunate to have in the office meticulous professionals with investigative skills who are trained in forensic accounting and they have found evidence of asset misappropriation in this ongoing investigation,” he said.
Ms. Stulsky refused to speak after her court appearance as a group of regional television reporters followed her down the hallway and hurled questions asking why she stole the funds. People on hand to support Ms. Stultsky likewise did not want to speak with press.
Ms. Stulsky hugged one of them after the court proceedings, telling her, “Hi, hon. It’s OK … I’m OK.”
John Strode, the Riverhead-based lawyer representing Ms. Stultsky, offered little to elaborate on the charges, noting that “we’re going to conference with the district attorney’s office and see if we can work it out with them.”
Ms. Stultsky resigned from her post on Tuesday, the town’s second longest-tenured employee at the time after working for Southold Town since 1980.
Mr. Russell said the amount
stolen from justice court added up through “small increments over many years.”
“To be candid, with all of the safeguards we have in place, sometimes it’s hard to stop bad actors from acting badly,” he said.
Ms. Stultsky posted $10,000 bond on Friday morning and was released. She is due back in court on May 27, and was informed that a Suffolk County grand jury was reviewing her case, indicating she may face additional charges.