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Charges reduced in union forgery case

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CANTON — A guilty plea agreement in St. Lawrence County Court on Friday relieved a former union treasurer accused of embezzlement and forgery from nine felony charges.

Philip J. Jessmer, 42, of 79 Lincoln Ave., Waddington, was released by St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards under probation supervision with charges reduced from eight counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of grand larceny to one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument, a class D felony.

The agreement was reached between Assistant District Attorney Joshua HaberkornHalm and Public Defender Stephen D. Button in a Supreme Court Information conference before the hearing. As a part of the agreement, Mr. Jessmer still is responsible for $7,616.19 in restitution.

From April 2010 to October 2011, while he was treasurer for Civil Service Employees Association Local 185, which represents civilian employees at Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, Mr. Jessmer forged checks totaling $7,616.19.

Mr. Jessmer held the treasurer’s position from July 1, 2009, until February 2012. He has since been fired.

According to court documents, the amounts of the forged checks were one each for $1,200, $989.72, $200 and $100, and two apiece for $900 and $600.

The remaining $2,126.47 of that $7,616.19 balance was in the form of reimbursement checks from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union that he cashed and kept for himself.

In a statement given to state police Jan. 15, Mr. Jessmer explained what he did.

“When I was treasurer of the Local 185 union, I forged our president’s name, Mark Lashua, on approximately five checks,” he said. “When I forged our union president’s name on the checks, I cashed them and kept the money for myself. I also kept three CSEA reimbursement checks for myself.”

The reimbursement checks were supposed to be deposited into the union’s checking account.

In court Friday, Judge Richards inquired what Mr. Jessmer did with the money he stole, voicing concern for the possibility it may have been used for a drug or gambling problem.

Mr. Jessmer told Mr. Button that his wife had lost her job and he used the money to help support his family and pay bills.

He is scheduled to reappear in County Court at 9:15 a.m. Sept. 9 for sentencing.

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