HALFMOON, N.Y. — A former Halfmoon Planning Board member was recently sentenced to a year of probation, fined $3,000, and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service for lying to FBI investigators about business dealings he had with a construction company.
Thomas A. Ruchlicki, 64, was indicted in 2018 for making a false statement to FBI investigators during an interview with them on Jan. 3, of that year. The investigators were looking into payments made to him by a property construction and development company. The company’s name and its owner were never identified in court documents.
In a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Ruchlicki pleaded guilty and agreed to resign from his town Planning Board seat by June 1, 2018, which he did. He had served on the board for more than a dozen years.
After several sentencing postponements, Ruchlicki and his attorney Samuel C. Breslin appeared before U.S. District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn in an empty federal courtroom in Albany on Aug. 14.
Standing before the judge, Ruchlicki admitted that on January 3, 2018, when questioned by FBI special agents he falsely told them that his financial dealings with the owner/operator of the property construction and development company involved that individual purchasing an antique car he owned. In fact, Ruchlicki never sold a car, and never had any plans to sell the owner/operator a car.
“This gentleman has lived a very good blue-collar life,” Breslin told the judge last week. “He’s tried to help his community whenever he could. He is extraordinarily remorseful; more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
When offered a chance to speak to the court Ruchlicki stood before the judge and apologized for his “mistakes and offenses."
“These were things I’ve done that I shouldn’t have,” he said to the judge in a quiet but clear voice.
In a sentencing memorandum submitted to the court a day earlier, Breslin asked that Ruchlicki receives just a fine.
“Tom Ruchlicki has paid for his mistake over the past year and a half,” Breslin wrote. “He lost his job; he resigned his position on the Halfmoon Planning Board and has faced the embarrassment and shame from having his name and photograph in the papers and online. This was a mistake, but one that will never be repeated. Tom is a good man, and an honest man, who followed another person’s request and made a false statement.”
Ruchlicki, Breslin wrote, was thrust into retirement after working 35 years at the Watervliet Arsenal due to the legal matter.
After reviewing a pre-sentencing report and in light of Ruchlicki accepting responsibility, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in its sentencing memorandum recommended he be sentenced to 18 months probation. The maximum sentence for giving a false statement to federal investigators is five years incarceration, three years supervised released and a $250,000 fine.
Ruchlicki received 26 payments by check from the unnamed company owner totaling $85,800 between June 5, 2015, and Sept. 1, 2017, according to the court documents. The smallest amount was for $500, and the largest was $25,000.
During an initial interview with the FBI agents, Ruchlicki said he had no financial relationships with any individual who operated a property and construction company. When told by the agents that bank records proved otherwise, Ruchlicki said the construction company owner was in the process of buying one of his old cars.
Breslin’s memorandum described Ruchlicki as being scared when the investigators arrived at his workplace and began asking questions about “his relationship with another individual." Ruchlicki, Breslin wrote, stuck to his story for a few hours only to reach out to the agents later that same day and meet with them to acknowledge that what he had told them earlier was not the truth.
“Simply put,” Breslin wrote, “he was put in an unenviable and awkward position, told what he then believed to be a ‘white lie,’ and hours later corrected the record.”
According to documents filed with the court in the case, during the second interview, Ruchlicki admitted the property and construction company owner had told him if he was ever questioned by investigators about the relationship he should tell them the payments were for the purchase of an antique car.
Ruchlicki told the investigators he sold two parcels of land in Saratoga County to the unnamed individual between June 2015 and September 2017 with “handshake deals." One parcel was said to be sold for $50,000 and the other for $175,000. The payments were to be made in installments.
Ruchlicki’s guilty plea and sentencing for a federal crime follows that of former Halfmoon Town Supervisor Melinda Wormuth who pleaded guilty in federal court in August 2015 to two felony charges. She was sentenced to 11 months in federal prison and has since served her sentence.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Kahn told Ruchlicki, “You made a mistake. I don’t expect you to do this ever again.”
The case was prosecuted for the people by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Belliss. When court was adjourned, he shook Ruchlicki’s hand and wished him good luck.