Former ComLinks chief indicted by grand jury

A Franklin County grand jury handed down a six-count felony indictment to former ComLinks Executive Director Nancy Reich yesterday morning.

The 64-year-old Paul Smiths resident faces charges of fourth-degree grand larceny, four counts of first-degree falsifying business records, and one count of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.

Appearing in Franklin County Court before acting Judge Patrick McGill, Reich pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy had been assigned as special prosecutor in the case, because Franklin County DA Derek Champagne had worked with former domestic violence staff at ComLinks.

But instead, it was Murphy's assistant district attorney, Richard Wendling, who appeared on the people's behalf Tuesday.

Reich is being represented in the case by attorney Andrew Safranko.

The ComLinks Board of Directors fired Reich last July, after state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit showing she used at least $100,000 in grant monies to pay for things like spa treatments, golf memberships, and lavish hotel bills.

ComLinks is a community-action agency based in Malone.

Brian Cassini has since been named the agency's executive director, although he too was named in DiNapoli's audit for poor management when he served as chief executive officer.

The audit also scolded Chief Financial Officer Brenda Mallette-Glennon for poor oversight of Reich's activities. She still serves as CFO, but the position is being advertised.

Although it's not covered in the grand jury indictment, Reich is also accused of bullying and intimidating ComLinks staff.

In a statement sent to media outlets last night, Comptroller DiNapoli said the money Reich allegedly misused was supposed to help "needy families" in Franklin County.

"Instead, it went into Reich's pocket, paying for perks like wine and massages," DiNapoli said.

DiNapoli adds that his office will continue to work with the prosecution, providing support to help "win a conviction."

"Any misuse of public dollars is unacceptable and must be punished," DiNapoli said. "What happened at ComLinks was disgraceful. My office will continue to work to uncover fraud, waste, and abuse across New York."

Judge McGill released Reich without bail, but ordered her to surrender her passport. She's scheduled to return to court April 21 and appear before Franklin County Court Judge Robert G. Main Jr.

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