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Albany County comptroller's audit critical of David Soares' office

The audit included a three-page list of issues including missing receipts; not implementing previous recommendations on petty cash transactions; poor handling of paperwork; inappropriate reimbursements and expense write-offs; and the depositing of a $351,117 victim restitution check in the petty cash account from a jeweler convicted of bilking customers.

The account is not supposed to exceed $5,000, according to Connors, and he said that victims in the crime were over-compensated with taxpayer money by Soares' office.

The jeweler, Peter Spinelli, a New Scotland resident and former Colonie Jewelry shop owner, was caught selling fake diamonds and swiping his customers' gems with fakes. One of the defendants in the case alleged that Spinelli replaced a 73-year-old family stone with moissanite when it was given to him for resetting.

He was originally arrested in May of 2006 when a customer at Spinelli Jewelers, located at 1315 Central Ave. in Colonie, noticed that the stone in her ring looked different after dropping it off at his store for repair, according Soares' office.

Spinelli pleaded guilty to two counts of felony third-degree grand larceny and was sentenced in March of 2007 by Albany County Judge Thomas Breslin to the state maximum of three to nine years in prison and was required to pay full restitution to his victims in the amount of $391,117.56.

Connors said the restitution money eventually made its way into the petty cash account, and Soares' said he is now conducting his own investigation into the matter.

"It is my responsibility to ensure the public safety of Albany County, but it is also my responsibility to ensure the integrity of the fiscal controls within this office," Soares' said. "I am in the process of convening a panel of financial experts to review the fiscal dealing of the Office of the Albany County District Attorney and will report those findings to the people of Albany County when they become available to me."

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