Former Margaretville attorney pleads guilty

By Jay Braman Jr.
Dales Hughes, a former Margaretville attorney, faces up to one year in prison after pleading guilty to embezzling over $220,000 from an Ulster County volunteer fire company.
On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Hughes made a plea of guilty to a charge of second-degree grand larceny. The tentative plea agreement, reached with the Ulster County District Attorney, allows Hughes to serve up to one year in jail and avoid a tougher sentence. His alleged crime could bring a sentence of between five and 15 years in prison without a plea bargain.
In order to get away with only one year in jail, Hughes must pay Woodstock Fire Company Number 3 all of the money he took from company coffers while he was treasurer. He has already paid back all but about $50,000.

According to Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office investigated the matter, Hughes Jr., 64, was charged with stealing $221,385 from the Woodstock fire company over a span of about five years, from 2006 through 2011.
Hughes was arrested on October 11, 2012 and spent a week in the Ulster County Jail before his bail was arranged.

Hughes formally worked for Margaretville Attorney Dennis Metnick and was a representative for the Roxbury Arts Group and was on the steering committee of the Friends of the Catskill Interpretive Center, an organization devoted to the fruition of the long-planned Center in Mount Tremper.
Roxbury Arts Group Administrative Assistant Marlene Feldman said that Hughes is no longer involved with the organization.

Worked locally
Metnick said that Hughes connection with Metnick law was short-lived one, with Hughes working for the firm for only a matter of months back in the late ’90s. Metnick said he and Hughes “went separate ways” but that Hughes, immediately following his departure from Metnick law, rented space in Metnick’s Main Street building for over a year and had a private practice. In 2000 Hughes vacated the space.

According to an audit report prepared by the comptroller, Hughes endorsed 83 checks worth a total of $200,385 and made them payable to “cash.” Auditors claim that Hughes also stole $21,000 in cash proceeds from various pancake breakfast fundraisers held to support the fire company.
An investigation began in May 2011 after a $10,000 fire company check bounced. The check was to pay for a new fire-truck bay at the firehouse.

Hughes, who was treasurer from 1997 to 2011 and is currently the fire companies vice president, began paying the funds back after being questioned by other fire company officials shortly after the check bounced. By July 2012 Hughes had restored about $170,000 to fire company coffers.
Hughes goes back to court for sentencing on March 13 at which time he must have paid all the money back.