Cortland man who stole $11K from Homer PTO enters guilty plea

CORTLAND, N.Y. — A Cortland man accused of stealing nearly $12,000 from the Homer Elementary Parent Teacher Organization while he was president of the group pleaded guilty Tuesday to grand larceny.

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Kurt Kleefeld, 60, was arrested in January after members of the organization noticed discrepancies in their PTO checking account. The group's treasurer discovered that some of the money accrued from a fundraiser held by the PTO—in which they sold Yankee Candle products—had gone missing.

School officials met with the Homer Police Department and began going through PTO check accounts to find other discrepancies.

In other instances, school officials discovered, Kleefeld wrote fictitious receipts to conceal his crime. For example, Kleefeld gave the PTO treasurer a receipt of $800 for the JM Mcdonald Center, which is used by students for sports and recreational activities. When the treasurer followed up with JM Mcdonald Center, he learned that only $200 was paid on that date—meaning Kleefeld pocketed a total of $600.

Between October 2012 and August 2014, Kleefeld stole a total of $11, 983 from the organization, according to court documents.

Under a plea agreement reached Tuesday, Kleefeld will be sentenced to 5 years of probation for pleading guilty to one count of third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony. He could have faced up to 7 years in prison.

The Homer PTO had asked prosecutors not to seek incarceration, according to Cortland County District Attorney Mark Suben—but only on the condition that Kleefeld be required to pay full restitution before being sentenced. Suben said the group's reputation has suffered since Kleefeld's arrest.

"Their fundraising efforts have been negatively impacted by this event," Suben said in court Tuesday.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 9.

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