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Former Gouverneur mayor sentenced for real estate scam

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CANTON — Former Gouverneur Mayor Christopher A. Miller was sentenced to prison Thursday in St. Lawrence County Court for swindling two Gouverneur residents out of more than $20,000 in a real estate scheme.

Mr. Miller, 32, of 171 Rowley St., was sentenced as a second felony offender to 2 to 4 years in prison after pleading guilty Jan. 16 to fourth-degree grand larceny.

County Judge Jerome J. Richards said Mr. Miller would immediately be eligible for six months in the state prison system’s shock incarceration program.

If he successfully completes the military-style treatment program, he will be a candidate for early release. He can then serve the balance of his sentence on parole.

The sentence was part of a plea deal with District Attorney Mary E. Rain. Mr. Miller originally was charged with third-degree grand larceny for his April 2012 sale of a home at 31 Edith St. to Ronald and Heather Sliter for $50,000. The land contract was fraudulent because he failed to mention he co-owned the property with Dylan T. Liebenow, who did not approve the transaction.

The plea deal both reduced his original charge and resolved two uncharged crimes that included a real estate transaction he brokered without a real estate license for another property he did not own.

Mr. Miller also sold properties at 18 and 24 South St. to Kyle J. Travis for $85,000. The former mayor had purchased the South Street apartment houses from Mark E. Hendrick, who held a $110,000 mortgage on them and started foreclosure proceedings on them before Mr. Miller sold them to Mr. Travis.

In Court Thursday, Mr. Miller wiped away tears as he sat down beside his attorney, John W. Hallett, and listened to Mrs. Sliter read her prepared victim-impact statement.

Mrs. Sliter said the former mayor “may not fully understand the magnitude of the losses that he inflicted upon our family.”

“That the last five years of saving for our future and that of our children had been taken from us, not only by a person, but a municipal leader of our community,” Mrs. Sliter said.

“No parent should ever have to hear the sobs of their children losing their home,” Mrs. Sliter said. “It’s about the slow and painful recovery of this crime that our family, especially my children, will endure for many more years to come.”

Given a chance to speak, Mr. Miller told Mr. and Mrs. Sliter he had never intended to hurt them.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Mr. Miller said. “I never intended to hurt you.”

Judge Richards said something about Mr. Miller’s apology didn’t ring true.

“It smells, Mr. Miller,” Judge Richards said. “It smells bad. The fact is, you cheated them. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things, and what you did is not only wrong, it is illegal.”

Judge Richards added that it wasn’t an apology that the Sliters needed, but rather reparations.

Besides his prison sentence, Mr. Miller must put his home up for sale and use the proceeds to pay restitution of $21,077.57 to the Sliters and $14,000 to Mr. Travis.

Mr. Hallet said the ultimate question was whether this was a criminal act.

“I’m not sure he is a criminal, but he is a very bad businessman who entered into something he shouldn’t have gone through with and unfortunately he crossed a line into criminal conduct,” Mr. Hallet said. “He has very bad business practices.”

Ms. Rain said she was satisfied with the sentence and felt that justice had been served.

“He was sentenced to the maximum punishment he could have received and he has to pay full restitution to the victims of the crime,” Ms. Rain said.

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