Like pet shelter organizations everywhere, the Central New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seeks homes for unwanted four-legged creatures and raises public awareness about abuse and neglect.
But the CNYSPCA in Syracuse is unusual in one big respect. Paul Morgan, its former executive director, and Taylor Gilkey, an ex-staffer identified as his on-and-off girl friend, recently were sent to prison for embezzling more than $800,000 to pay for, among other things, gambling junkets to Las Vegas. That’s money that could have helped a lot of dogs and cats.
Morgan and Gilkey are hereby nominated to my new list, It Didn’t Stay Here. These are people who get into trouble elsewhere for something that happened in that bug light called Las Vegas. My list is a tongue-in-cheek rebuttal of that famous Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority slogan, “What Happens Here, Stays Here.” The names of all nominees can be found elsewhere on this page along with, by clicking on their names, their sad stories.
Long before becoming New To Las Vegas, I profiled the odd economy of Syracuse in a lengthy article for Forbes magazine. The embezzement of funds benefiting Fido and Muffy has been a big story for a year in the frosty-in-the-winter, once-prosperous city near the Canadian border. This account is drawn primarily from the massive local news media coverage.
Morgan pleaded guilty in Onondaga County Court to writing 132 checks on CNYSPCA bank accounts to himself for $475,000, and another 52 checks to Gilkey, who was a veterinary technician at the shelter, for $217,000, half of which she gave back to Morgan. Prosecutors said they blew an unspecified amount of the stolen money over five years from 2011 to 2016 on gambling trips to Las Vegas and other cities.
Morgan’s lawyer, Edward Z. Menken, said his client had a gambling problem. Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said Morgan was not a successful gambler. To both I would say, Duh. It’s easier to lose money faster in Las Vegas than most any other gambling mecca.
Morgan was sentenced to four to 12 years in state prison and ordered to make restitution of $591,852.31. “Gambling destroyed my life,” he was quoted as saying at his March sentencing. “My intention was never to harm the organization in any way and I apologize for my actions.”
Gilkey, who also pleaded guilty, was sentenced a month later to two to six years in the slammer and ordered to repay $249,635.37. “I’m truly sorry for my actions, your honor,” she was quoted as saying in court.
A third ex-CNYSPCA worker, administrative assistant Nicole Cafarchio, was spared jail time but given five years probation and ordered to repay $62,000 for cashing 15 checks at the behest of Morgan. From news accounts it’s not clear that money specifically found its way to Las Vegas, so she gets a pass from my list.
The CNYSPCA officially figured its total loss was more than $900,000. From news accounts it’s not clear to me how so much money could be stolen for so long without detection from a relatively small operation–according to its latest available tax return, total income over roughly the same five-year period was just $7.5 million. For 2015, the CNYSPCA paid Morgan total (legal) compensation of $122,000.
Both Morgan and Gilkey were led away in handcuffs immediately after their separate sentencings in Syracuse. Ironically–and perhaps fittingly–they are now confined not unlike the animals whose trust they betrayed in a certain city 2,400 miles away.