New York State Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro today announced the guilty plea of a New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) assistant engineer who created false receipts from an RV park on his work computer and submitted them in order to obtain reimbursement for travel he did not take, totaling $3,445.56 in taxpayer funds.
Kenneth Leisenring, 54, of Whitesboro, pled guilty in Mayfield Town Court to Attempted Defrauding the Government (A Misdemeanor) before Justice Aaron Robinson. Leisenring paid full restitution as a condition of entering the plea.
Leisenring, an Assistant Engineer in charge of Region 2 (Utica), oversaw multiple DOT projects, including bridge rehabilitation, debris removal, and roundabout construction in and around Mayfield in Fulton County. He submitted fraudulent receipts to DOT for long-term lodging at the Sunset Bay Vacation Resort RV Park & Marina on Sacandaga Lake. When calculating his total expenses, DOT staff noticed that Leisenring significantly overreported his expenses and received reimbursements to which he was not entitled.
DOT follows the Office of the State Comptroller’s guidelines regarding extended travel, specifically: “When an employee is in travel status over an extended period of time or makes frequent trips to a single location, lodging may be obtained at a non-traditional hotel or motel such as an apartment, rooming house, bed and breakfast, or private residence. Travelers must obtain prior approval from their agency’s finance office to obtain reimbursement for such lodging…”
The Inspector General’s investigation found that Leisenring rented a space at the RV park in April 2019, paying a total $3,800 via a personal credit card. However, Leisenring submitted additional receipts purported to be from the facility to DOT on June 19, June 23, July 7, July 21, August 4 and August 18. In fact, all six receipts were fraudulent. The owner of the park told the Inspector General’s Office that the fake receipts appeared to be “cut and pasted from our old website,” and that he did not recognize the signatures on the documents.
The investigation found that DOT overpaid Leisenring $3,445.56 based upon the fraudulent submissions, and that he had attempted to submit additional fraudulent receipts for reimbursements totaling $1,351.20. In addition, Leisenring never requested “unconventional lodging” travel status and was not entitled to the state per-diem while at a long-term rental at the RV park. Leisenring also submitted multiple emails to a DOT Travel Unit supervisor attempting to “correct” his submissions and have the matter handled “in-house,” noting that he intended to retire this past May (which he did).
“State employees who travel as part of their work duties are required to abide by strict guidelines and measures to ensure accountability and protect taxpayer funds,” said Inspector General Tagliafierro. “This individual flouted those guidelines and created fake receipts to obtain more than $3,000 in reimbursement he was not entitled to receive.”
Inspector General Tagliafierro thanked DOT for referring the matter to her office, the New York State Police for conducting the arrest, and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office for prosecuting the case.