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Theft at cemetery alleged

Court papers say ex-manager of two city facilities stole $43,000

Patrick Flanigan
Staff writer

(March 28, 2007) — The former manager of Rochester's two municipal cemeteries allegedly was involved in the theft of more than $43,000 in fraudulent commissions on cemetery plots and monuments and collected $1,000 from the sale of city-owned bronze and brass sold as scrap metal, authorities allege in court documents.

The case against Nancy Hilliard, 47, has been referred to a grand jury, which must decide whether she should be indicted on the felony charge of third-degree grand larceny.

She was released after her arraignment Saturday and could not be reached for comment Monday.

Hilliard also was charged with misdemeanor petit larceny and official misconduct. The grand jury also could include additional felony charges in an indictment.

Hilliard managed Rochester's Mt. Hope and Riverside cemeteries for almost 10 years, until she was forced to resign in June. She surrendered to police Saturday, five days after a cemetery salesman was arrested on similar charges.

According to court documents, Hilliard and sales coordinator Scott Hefti allegedly defrauded the city of more than $43,000 by manipulating contracts on the sale of cemetery plots and monuments. In some cases, the documents allege, Hilliard and Hefti would collect multiple commissions on the sale of the same plot by re-writing a contract each time a buyer fell behind on a payment plan.

The documents also allege that on June 1, Hilliard sold $928 worth of cemetery bronze and brass to a scrap yard and kept the money. Hilliard's supervisor, Charles Reaves, the city's commissioner of recreation and youth services, confronted Hilliard with evidence of the scrap sale on June 15 and offered her a choice to resign or be fired.

"Ms. Hilliard stated that she had given the money to a staff member," Reaves wrote in a deposition filed with her arrest records. "I told her that wasn't good enough and she offered to give the money back."

The documents also indicate that city officials knew about the improper sales procedures in 2004.

Loretta Scott, who was Reaves' predecessor in the administration of former Mayor William A. Johnson Jr., told police that she talked to Hilliard after a 2004 audit revealed that she and her sales staff violated city policy on commissions, documents show.

"I spoke (to) Nancy Hilliard and told her the re-writing of contracts and the taking of commissions against a re-written contract was not to be done anymore," Scott wrote. In an interview after Hefti was arrested last week, Scott said the audit prompted the addition of new safeguards to "protect the integrity of the system" in the cemetery office.

Hilliard is currently working as the director of operations at the Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, N.J. Chris Mojica, the cemetery's manager, said the cemetery administrators were unaware of the allegations when she was hired in the late summer of 2006. For now, he said, administrators consider her innocent until proven guilty

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