Cohoes mayor accused of using campaign contributions for personal benefit pleads not guilty

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Shawn Morse_671055

Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse has been arrested by the FBI Thursday morning.

Morse pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and one count of making a false statement to the FBI.

Read the indictment

According to the Department of Justice, from approximately 2013 through 2018, Morse and his campaign treasurer Ralph Signoracci solicited and received contributions to his campaign committee, Friends of Shawn Morse, and his political action committee, The Chairman’s Pac, from area businesses and businesspeople. 

Morse is accused of, at times, asking Signoracci to withdraw funds from the committees’ bank accounts so that he could use them to pay for personal expenses. 

According to the indictment, Morse and Signoracci concealed the nature of expenditures by falsely reporting the purpose of the expenditures or by not reporting or disclosing them on campaign disclosure reports, as required of local candidates running for office.

Morse is also accused of providing false information to the FBI when questioned in September 2018.

If convicted, Morse faces up to 20 years in prison, a term of post-release supervision of up to three years, and a fine of up to $250,000.

Morse was released on his own recognizance following his arraignment. The judge ordered Morse to maintain or actively seek employment through the legal process.

Morse’s attorney Bill Dreyer left the courthouse without comment. More released a statement on Facebook saying he’s confident this will be over soon and thanking his supporters.

His campaign manager Tom Scarff says he believes the charges are politically motivated.

“People make mistakes I’m not saying that Shawn did make a mistake. I don’t know for sure.”

He says Morse has been expecting something like this to happen for the past year.

“We’ve known for quite a while that the FBI was looking into something. We didn’t know what until today.”

Some Cohoes Common Council members are calling for Morse to resign after hearing about his arrest Thursday morning.

Albany County Legislature Chairman Andrew Joyce is also calling on Morse to resign. He issued the following statement:

“We owe it to the people we serve to conduct ourselves in an ethical manner when we are entrusted with these positions of leadership. The allegations against Mayor Morse signal an apparent breakdown of leadership at many levels. Morse did a lot of great things for the City of Cohoes. It is unfortunate that he chose to waste his opportunity to serve the people who believed in him.”

The Cohoes Common Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday afternoon “requesting Morse take a leave of absence or resign. The resolution has no legal weight forcing the mayor to do anything.

Morse has been the mayor since 2015.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by the Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Kinsella Kistler.

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