Julie Brown


PENN YAN — The town of Potter’s former clerk and tax collector has paid back some of the approximately $46,000 she stole years ago — but will still get jail time.

Julie Brown pleaded guilty Tuesday in Yates County Court to felony charges of grand larceny, corrupting the government, tampering with public records, and scheme to defraud, as well as a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. She is scheduled to be sentenced May 25.

District Attorney Todd Casella said Judge Jason Cook committed to a sentence of 180 days in jail and five years of probation if Brown paid $20,000 in restitution at the time of her plea, with the rest of the money to be paid back over time. She made that first payment Tuesday.

Brown was arrested in November following an investigation involving the sheriff’s office, DA’s office and state Comptroller’s Office. She admitted embezzling cash payments made to the town for property taxes and fees that included marriage licenses, dog licenses, hunting permits, and building permits.

Brown was employed by the town from January 2018 to May 2019, when she resigned.

Casella said the possible sentence range was a cap of 2-6 years in prison, with at least 180 days in jail and probation.

“The People were seeking prison and in order to remove our leverage on a plea to less than the entire indictment, she pleaded to the entire indictment leaving sentencing up to the judge,” Casella said by email.

“Ms. Brown violated the public trust by stealing community funds to cover her personal expenses and now has been held accountable for her crimes,” state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said in a news release. “I thank Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella and Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike for helping us bring this former clerk to justice.”

“Finding justice where a public official acts contrary to their oath of office shows accountability for people’s confidence in our system,” Spike added.

In other court action Tuesday:

• Donald VanEtten, 44, of Penn Yan, was sentenced to four months in jail and 10 years of probation after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree sexual abuse.

VanEtten, who was arrested by Penn Yan police in May 2020, admitted subjecting two minors to unwanted sexual contact.

Casella said VanEtten will have to register as a sex offender.

• Kenneth Lafler, 49, of Dundee, was arraigned on a felony charge of failure to register as a sex offender. He was remanded to the county jail without bail.

Casella said Lafler also faces a felony charge of first-degree criminal sexual act.

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