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July 2, 2014

Prosecutor ends probe of alleged fund theft

Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl said Tuesday he has closed the investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds from the campaign treasury of Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, after a representative of the campaign indicated it was not interested in pursuing criminal charges.

“Pursuant to the victim’s request, the investigation is closed,” Muehl said.

The Daily Star reported last month that the county Sheriff’s Office had opened up an investigation after the Seward campaign provided information indicating that a campaign credit card had been used by a former staffer, county Rep. Betty Anne Schwerd, R-Burlington, for purchases that had not been authorized by the campaign.

A source familiar with the investigation said Schwerd had advised the campaign it could keep her final paycheck from the campaign to cover the amount of funds that the campaign said was unauthorized.

A Seward campaign representative had indicated the records showed that Schwerd had racked up $1,121 in unauthorized charges with the credit card in question, the source said.

Her recent payment of $497.21 to the campaign, along with the stopping of the payroll check due to her, took care of the total amount owed to the campaign, the source said. Schwerd stopped working for Seward’s campaign this spring.

Law enforcement officials said prosecutions for alleged thefts are often not pursued when alleged victims ask for a case to be shut down.

Jeff Bishop, a spokesman for Seward, declined to comment on the resolution of the matter.

Schwerd did not respond to an email message requesting comment. First elected as the District 10 representative in 2003, she represents the towns of Plainfield, Exeter, Edmeston and Burlington.

She has also been serving as the chairwoman of the county’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, though an advisory issued by the Board of Representatives’ office this week identified Rep. Katherine Stuligross, D-Oneonta, as the acting chairwoman of that panel.

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