(WNY News Now) – State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara, and the New York State Police jointly announced the arrest of Utica City School District Superintendent Bruce Karam and former Utica Mayor Louis LaPolla. The charges include the alleged use of taxpayer funds for political campaigns and a non-school related fundraiser.
Utica – Utica City School District (UCSD) Superintendent Bruce Karam and former Utica Mayor Louis LaPolla have been arrested for allegedly diverting taxpayer funds for personal and political gains. The arrest, a result of collaboration between State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, District Attorney Scott McNamara, and the New York State Police, highlights a significant breach of public trust.
“The diversion of funds meant to support the education and well-being of students by high-ranking school officials is an appalling betrayal of the public trust,” DiNapoli said. “Instead of serving the students of the district who they were duty-bound to help, these two defendants allegedly chose to serve themselves. Thanks to my partnership with District Attorney McNamara and the State Police they will now be held accountable for their crimes.”
District Attorney McNamara expressed gratitude for the collaborative effort in investigating the case of public corruption. New York State Police Acting Superintendent Dominick L. Chiumento said, “These individuals deliberately stole funds intended to enrich education for students of the Utica City School District, all for personal fulfillment. Because of the strong collaboration among law enforcement, we were able to expose this fraud. I thank the Comptroller’s office and Oneida County District Attorney’s Office for their partnership in these arrests. The State Police will continue to hold those accountable whose actions hurt our community, and the well-being of children.”
Investigations revealed that Superintendent Karam allegedly used school money and resources, including stamps, envelopes, and other supplies, to support school board candidates favorable to him. These candidates determined Karam’s contract, salary, and authority within the district. Additionally, Karam is accused of utilizing school resources to promote a non-school related fundraiser for a charity supposedly run by LaPolla. School district employees, during school hours, inserted fundraiser fliers into envelopes paid for by the district and mailed using district stamps.
Karam, in an attempt to cover up his actions, allegedly coerced school district employees into providing false information about the legitimate purpose of these resources. The total value of the misused taxpayer funds is reported to be $14,649, including $9,775 in stamps, $1,015 in supplies, and $3,859 in compensation for hours of work.
Karam, who served as UCSD Superintendent from 2011 until being placed on leave on October 18, 2022, remains on leave. Both Karam and LaPolla face charges of Grand Larceny in the 4th degree and Public Corruption. Karam faces additional charges, including Corruption of the Government in the 3rd degree. The arraignment took place in Oneida County Court before Judge Michael L. Dwyer, and the next court date is scheduled for December 1, 2023.