STATEN ISLAND — The former head of purchasing for the Staten Island District Attorney stole more than $50,000 from the office to buy collector's knives, comics, video games and more, officials said.
William Nelson, 40, who served as the procurement director for the DA from 2006 to 2016 but was technically on leave until he was officially fired this week, was arrested on Tuesday by the Department of Investigation and charged with grand larceny, DA Michael McMahon announced.
"The crimes alleged today against Bill Nelson signify a deep betrayal of the public trust over an extended 11-year time-frame," McMahon said in a statement.
"These are funds that were meant to make Staten Island safer; to fight the opioid crisis, the surge in domestic violence, and the use of illegal guns, to name just a few. Instead they were allegedly used for personal indulgences in extravagant amounts to be disclosed as the investigation and prosecution proceed."
Nelson was hired to oversee all purchases for the office by then District Attorney and current Congressman Dan Donovan in 2005. A year after he was hired, Nelson started funneling money from the agency to cover a myriad of personal expenses, McMahon said.
"I’ve spoken with [DOI] Commissioner Mark Peters directly and have provided any information requested, as well as offered any assistance needed to further the DOI’s inquiry into this alleged misconduct," Donovan said in a statement.
"While I cannot comment further on this ongoing matter, I have great faith in the DOI’s ability to gather all of the facts and lead a thorough investigation."
Nelson starting funneling money from the agency to cover a myriad of personal expenses a year after he was hired, taking advantage of a lack of protocols in the financial department, McMahon said.
The office did not have written fiscal procedures to oversee the finances until 2012, and even the ones implemented were "limited," McMahon said.
From 2006 until 2016, Nelson took more than $50,000 from the office and used it for travel expenses, PayPal payments to himself, sports events and memorabilia, jewelry, clothing, survival and camping gear, electronics, comics, video games and knives, according to his criminal complaint.
Nelson was demoted to procurement analysts in May after McMahon took office and made changes to the staff. A spokesman for the DA could not say why he lost his original position.
He worked in that post until he resigned in December when they started interviewing new procurement directors and has been on terminal leave since.
After his resignation, the DA's office noticed irregularities and unauthorized spending by the agency and notified the DOI to investigate it, McMahon said.
The office also notified Comptroller Scott Stringer to preform an independent audit of their finances.
After a six-month investigation by the DOI, Nelson was arrested and was officially terminated from his post Tuesday.
During his tenure as the procurement director, one chief fiscal officer was responsible for reviewing Nelson's credit card purchases. The employee — who the DA did not name — has been suspended pending review as part of the investigation.
The DA also made changes to the office's fiscal procedures and adopted a series of recommendations by the DOI to increase oversight of its finances, McMahon said.
Nelson was arraigned Tuesday and his bail was set at $100,000 bond, $25,000 cash. He's due back in court on Aug. 3.
The DA's office has requested a special prosecutor to continue the case.
His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.