Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.
United States

Ex-Money Manager for Staten Island D.A. Stole $440K for Luxury Vacations, Sports Tickets and Knives

A former manager who helped oversee finances at the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office is accused of stealing almost half a million dollars over a decade, of which the spoils were flaunted on Instagram. 

Federal prosecutors say 44-year-old William Nelson of Manhattan abused his position to hide his theft of $440,000. Investigators said he spent the stolen cash on luxury vacations, sports tickets and an extensive knife collection, which he showed off on his Instagram account. 

“This case is a textbook example of what can happen when power goes unchecked,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. “Our communities place a high level of trust in those who hold these positions, and that trust should never waver.”

The 10-count corruption indictment includes theft of funds and mail fraud charges.

Nelson worked as the procurement director from June 2005 until December 2016. During that time, he allegedly concealed his use of office credit cards for personal use. Officials said he hid the financial statements by sending them to his personal email and then approving his own transactions.

Nelson spent about $100,000 on knives and over $99,000 on personal items from online vendors including Amazon, and he moved roughly $12,000 into his personal account, according to the city’s Department of Investigation, who looked into his social media posts as part of their investigation. 

He spent thousands on family trips to Disney World, the Landsdowne Resort and Spa in Virginia, and the Sagamore Resort in Lake George, New York, authorities allege.

He also spent $13,000 of stolen money on football games, include a Nov. 15, 2015 game between the Giants and the Patriots, and a Dec. 28, 2014 game between the Steelers and the Bengals. 

A failure of internal controls within the Staten Island DA’s office allowed Nelson’s scheme to continue for years, DOI officials said.

Nelson was arraigned Thursday afternoon at the Brooklyn federal courthouse and released on $500,000 bond. Nelson’s attorney, Patrick Brackley, did not immediately return a request for comment. A spokesman for the Staten Island DA’s office referred calls to the US Attorney’s office.

In a statement, Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said the crimes allegedly committed by Nelson "signify a deep betrayal of the public trust over an extended 11-year time-frame and exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars" that "were meant to make Staten Island safer." 

"Instead they allegedly used for personal indulgences," McMahon said. 

Prosecutors said the top mail fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted.

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