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Former Gouverneur mayor pleads not guilty

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CANTON — The former mayor of Gouverneur pleaded not guilty Friday in St. Lawrence County Court to charges that he bilked two Gouverneur residents by fraudulently selling them a house.

Christopher A. Miller, 30, of 171 Rowley St., Gouverneur, appeared with his attorney, John W. Hallett, Watertown, to plead not guilty to third-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing counts. Miller is accused of selling a house at 31 Edith St. in Gouverneur to Ronald and Heather Sliter for $50,000 on a fraudulent land contract because he failed to mention there was a co-owner who did not sign off on the transaction. Miller earlier rejected a plea agreement because it would have required sentencing him as a second felony offender. As a result of the accusation, Miller also faces charges of violating the three-year probationary sentence he received in January 2010 in Jefferson County Court, where he pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal trespass and petit larceny, both misdemeanors. A hearing on the probation violation was adjourned by St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards.

Miller resigned as mayor Aug. 15 and was charged six days later.

Also in county court Friday:

■ Corey H. Shantie, 33, Massena, was sentenced to an interim probation of one year and is to repay his mother, Terry Shantie, the $19,100 he was accused of taking from her bank account over a five-month period in 2009 when she lived with him.

The thefts and Mr. Shantie’s refusal to repay his mother before criminal charges were filed caused an irreparable rift in the family, according to a letter written by Mrs. Shantie that was read aloud in court by another of her sons.

“It was never my intention to hurt Corey. Apparently he doesn’t care that he has hurt me,” she wrote. “I did not and still do not deserve to be treated this way. Even now that the matter is settled legally, I have not received an apology.”

Judge Richards gave Mr. Shantie the opportunity to make amends but he declined.

While Mrs. Shantie shook her head, he said he has already apologized to her.

“I can’t force you but I’ll tell you this. Life is too short,” Judge Richard said. “You close your eyes and years go by. You don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. Go ahead and punish them.”

Shantiewas indicted for third-degree grand larceny, two counts of second-degree identity theft and four counts of first-degree identity theft.

Mr. Shantie allegedly transferred money from his mother’s, Terry Shantie’s, bank account to an account they share on several occasions. Troopers charged at the time of Shantie’s March 2011 arrest that he had stolen over $17,000 from his mother during a five-month period in 2009.

Massena-based state police charged Shantie with a felony count of third-degree grand larceny. State police investigators allege Mr. Shantie made 16 unauthorized withdrawal transfers from Ms. Shantie’s account at North Country Savings Bank between April 2009 and September 2009.

Ms. Shantie told police she had moved in with her son and his family for a few months in September 2008, and she had opened a joint account with her son and his wife at the bank. She said she had given her son $15,000 to place in that account and had also opened a second account at NCSB with only her name on it.

She said she lived with her son’s family for approximately four months and during that time didn’t pay rent or monthly bills, but she said she did pay for groceries a few times.

“Corey asked to borrow $4,000 because he was building an addition at the house. I told him I would loan him the money as long as he paid me back,” she told police.

Ms. Shantie said she discovered she was missing thousands of dollars from her account when she went to the North Country Savings Bank in August 2010 to withdraw money and discovered her account was overdrawn by $836.

She noted in the statement she signed for police that a review of her bank statement revealed there had been 16 voice withdrawal transfers, totaling $17,600, made between April 13, 2009 and Sept. 1, 2009. She indicated she had not approved the transfers.

She said she had decided to contact the police about the issue after discussing the situation with her son, other family members and two attorneys.

Mr. Shantie told police he had helped his mother pay her bills while she was living with him and that he had borrowed $8,500 from his mother for the home improvement project.

“My mother told me to take the money from her single account and transfer it to the joint account. I paid her back $6,500. I made several other transfers from one account to the other to pay my mother’s bills and to pay money toward my brother’s wedding. My mother told me to make the transfers,” he said in the statement he signed for police.

“After my mother moved out, I still received Walmart bills in my mother’s name. My mother told me to pay them off so I transferred money from one account to the other to pay her credit card bills,” he added in his statement.

■ Shane W. Caskinette, 33, Massena, pleaded guilty to fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, satisfying additional charges of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Caskinette admitted he sold morphine March 22 in the village of Massena. He is to sentenced next year.

■ Theron A. Pankey, 35, of 1121 Route 11, Lot 32, Gouverneur, pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal contempt, admitting he violated an order of protection to have no contact with Melissa M. Bonnell.

The plea satisfies several other open charges pending against Mr. Pankey in the towns of Gouverneur, Fowler and Rossie, including third-degree assault and second-degree criminal contempt.

■ Arley L. Dahlberg, Gouverneur, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

He admitted having a car June 15 that belonged to Michael Chambers.

Dahlberg is to be sentenced Dec. 21 as a second felony offender.

■ Timothy A. Shippee, 24, Gouverneur, pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted assault, which also satisfies DWI and first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation charges pending against him.

Shippee admitted punching Daniel J. Ashley June 23 in the town of Gouverneur, breaking his jaw. He will be sentenced Dec. 21 as a second felony offender.

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