BUFFALO – A Niagara County man, and former New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYS Parks) employee, pled guilty on September 25, 2023, to one count of Petit Larceny in connection with his submission of fraudulent time sheets to obtain unearned wages, announced New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang. As part of the plea, the defendant Kevin Cottrell, age 62, of Niagara Falls, will pay $8,539.39 in restitution to the State of New York.
Cottrell, who was arrested and arraigned on July 6, 2023, was referred to the Offices of the Inspector General (OIG) by the New York State Department of Parks after it came to that agency’s attention that he had been running a private guided tour company while claiming to be working for New York State. OIG’s subsequent investigation uncovered at least 148 instances between September 2016 and February 2020 where Cottrell indicated on his timesheet that he worked a full day for NYS Parks but had in fact spent at least a portion of his workday in Canada, where he was not in a position to perform his state work. Upon being confronted by OIG investigators, Cottrell admitted to knowingly submitting inaccurate time sheets and to conducting personal business, both in the United States and in Canada, while on state time. As a result of his illegal conduct, Cottrell fraudulently obtained over $8,000 in wage payments from New York State.
“Integrity is a crucial element of serving this great state,” said Inspector General Lang. “Defrauding New Yorkers out of promised services not only hurts all taxpayers but reduces trust in government. New Yorkers should rest assured that OIG is focused on holding public servants accountable and ensuring all who work for the state are committed to doing so honestly.”
Inspector General Lang thanked the members of her office who conducted this investigation – Investigative Counsel Jill Florkowski, Investigator Amanda Brennan, Investigative Auditor Meghan O’Dell, Senior Investigator Maren Robinson-Traber, and Forensic & Digital Forensic Investigative Analyst James Aspland, former Chief of Investigation Charles Tirone–as well as the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the New York State Park Police for their collaboration. Lang also thanked Niagara County District Attorney Brian D. Seaman and his office for their partnership and diligence in prosecuting this important matter.
Cottrell is scheduled to return to court on December 4, 2023, for sentencing.