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Former union treasurer gets probation after forgeries

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CANTON — A former union treasurer charged with embezzlement and forgery received probation Monday in St. Lawrence County Court, dodging seven years of prison after a June plea agreement.

Philip J. Jessmer, 42, of 79 Lincoln Ave., Waddington, was sentenced to five years’ probation by St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome J. Richards on the charge of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, a class D felony.

The charge was a part of a plea deal reached between Mr. Jessmer’s attorney, St. Lawrence County Public Defender Stephen D. Button, and Assistant District Attorney Joshua A. HaberkornHalm, reducing the original nine felony charges of eight counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of grand larceny, for which Mr. Jessmer faced prison time.

Mr. Jessmer was treasurer for the Civil Service Employees Association Local 185, which represents civilian employees at Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, from July 1, 2009, until February 2012.

From April 2010 to October 2011, he forged checks totaling $7,616.19, and has since been fired.

According to court documents, the amounts of the forged checks from the local were one each for $1,200, $989.72, $200 and $100, and two apiece for $900 and $600, and $2,126.47 in 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 had done.

“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 Monday, Mr. Jessmer apologized to his family and the court for his actions and said he already had made full restitution.

On June 14, when he agreed to the reduced charge, 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.

In addition to his five-year probation sentence, Mr. Jessmer was ordered to pay a $50 court fee for DNA collection.

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