Disgraced former Kingston cop Tim Matthews was back in town briefly on Wednesday to answer charges that he has failed to pay back more than $200,000 in police funds stolen from city and county taxpayers in a scandal that rocked local law enforcement.
On Jan. 30, a slimmed-down Matthews, wearing prison greens, shackled hand and foot and escorted by a pair of state corrections officers, appeared briefly in the hallways of the Ulster County Courthouse en route to a holding pen where he was to await a hearing on his alleged failure to abide by restitution order imposed by the court last year as part of his sentence on two counts of grand larceny. Matthews, a highly decorated 26-year veteran of the KPD and onetime head of the department’s detective division is serving a three- to nine-year sentence in state prison for stealing $202,000 in police funds over the course of 10 years. In his role as commanding officer of the Detective Division and later, the countywide Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team, Matthews stole cash that had been seized as evidence in police investigations and “buy money” for undercover narcotics purchases. Matthews was also accused of stealing $10,000 from Ulster Savings Bank by taking payments for outside security work which was never performed.
The scheme unraveled in January 2011 when Matthews was suspended following allegations that he had charged the police department for dozens of hours when he was actually working a second job as a security coordinator for the Kingston City School District. Matthews never faced criminal charges for the alleged “double dipping,” despite a finding from the State Comptroller’s Office that he had been paid for the overlapping hours. Instead, he pleaded guilty to grand larceny.
In February 2012, Visiting County Court Judge Andrew G. Ceresia sentenced Matthews to three to nine years in state prison. He faced a maximum sentence of five to 15 years on the charges. The plea agreement contained a provision under which Matthews would make voluntary restitution payments out of his $28,000-per-year pension. (Under the state constitution, police pensions cannot be withheld for criminal conduct or otherwise involuntarily garnisheed). At the time, Matthews’ attorney, Michael Kavanagh, said that the bulk of his pension, while he was incarcerated, would go to pay child support to his ex-wife and six children. But, Kavanagh added, the remainder of the monthly pension checks would go into a joint account held by the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office. Kavanagh estimated that Matthews would pay back the entire $212,000 in 110 years.
But special prosecutor Tom Melanson — he took over the case after Kavanagh took a job with the UlsterCountyDA’s Office — said Wednesday Matthews, with the exception of $7,000 paid immediately after sentencing, has failed to make any payments towards the restitution order. The violation of the court order, Melanson said, could result in Matthews being sentenced to an additional year in state prison.
Any punishment, however, will have to wait until March. The hearing before Judge Ceresia was postponed after Matthews informed the judge that he had hired Kingston Attorney Tom Petro to represent him in the case. Petro, meanwhile, was in court on another case. Melanson said that he would meet with Petro before the March 20 court date to attempt to work out a resolution.
“The real goal at this point is to get the money paid back,” said Melanson. “Hopefully he’ll start making payments before [the next hearing].”
Matthews is currently incarcerated at the Mid-State Correctional Facility near Rome, N.Y. According to officials at the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, he is held in a unit set aside for inmates who because of their high public profile or other factors might be at increased risk of extortion or violence. He is eligible for parole in February 2015.