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Ogdensburg prison union embezzlement case heads to grand jury

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The case of a former union treasurer accused of embezzlement and forgery was moved Tuesday from Ogdensburg City Court to a St. Lawrence County grand jury.

Phillip J. Jessmer, 42, of 79 Lincoln Ave., Waddington, was charged last month with one count of third-degree grand larceny and eight counts of second-degree possession of a forged instrument, all felonies.

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

In a statement given to state police on 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.

Mr. Jessmer first admitted to the forgeries to a CSEA judicial review in Syracuse last August. He was advised then to reimburse the union in 30 days, but in his statement to state police said he hadn’t done so. Following an audit, union officials notified state police last month.

In his Dec. 3 statement to state police, Mr. Lashua said he didn’t sign the checks in question.

But he told police how he wanted the matter resolved.

“I want whoever signed my name on those checks arrested,” Mr. Lashua said.

Mr. Jessmer held the treasurer’s position from July 1, 2009, until February 2012. Mr. Jessmer is represented by St. Lawrence County Assistant Public Defender Steven G. Ballan.

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