Local American Legion hosts fundraiser after member allegedly stole thousands from post

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. ( NEWS10) – A local American Legion is hoping to recover after one of their own stands accused of stealing thousands of dollars from them.

The American Legion in Lake George held a fundraiser Friday night trying to get back on its feet after losing thousands of dollars.

“I had a suspicion for years that things weren’t kosher,” Lake George Post Commander Gary Vernum said.

Vernum has a feeling his post was missing funds.

“Unfortunately, no one was listening until they shut the doors and tried to sell the building on us,” he said.

That was September 2015. They reopened last May but disbanded their board.

Randy Powell became the financial officer. He was able to find proof that Richard Gijanto, a Sons of American Legion member and former bar and building manager, took their money.

“To hear that he was taking all this money, that is, you know, a slap in the face,” Powell said.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office said Gijanto stole more than $68,000 over six years. He’s charged with Grand Larceny in the Second and Third Degree and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree.

Vernum is related to him.

“I don’t see how anybody could steal from a charitable organization, and it really saddens me that a family member would do it,” Vernum said.

Vernum said Gijanto devastated the post.

“Every penny that disappears is a penny we can’t use to help somebody,” he said. “That tears me up.”

The post also lost a lot of members. They hope fundraisers will help them recover.

“We will survive,” Powell said. “We have been for the last year.”

But they know they have a long road ahead of them.

“Hopefully, we get some of those people to come back, and if we do, then you know the future’s rosy,” Vernum said.

Gijanto remains at the Warren County Correctional Facility. He’s scheduled to be back in court May 15.

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