Former auto group employee cleared of stealing more than $1 million

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 2:52 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Joseph Pompo of Syracuse, who was once accused of stealing more than a million dollars from the auto dealerships where he worked, says the last two years have been “absolute torture.”

Pompo, who once faced a charge that could have sent him to prison, instead pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor - petit larceny - while continuing to insist he never committed a crime.

And last month, he was granted a conditional discharge in Jefferson County Court, the absolute least a judge can do to a defendant.

“I never once took a penny from that organization that was not authorized as payment for my services,” Pompo told 7 News this week.

‘That organization’ is the former Fuccillo Auto Group, where Pompo was an accountant.

As Pompo explained to - and later confirmed for 7 News - he set up his own ‘reinsurance’ business with the blessing of the late Billy Fuccillo Sr., which he described as “a deal in place that was a way to compensate me for my employment.”

But after Pompo had a falling out with the company, state police accused Pompo of stealing more than a million dollars.

A Jefferson County grand jury eventually indicted Pompo on charges of stealing far less, $32,000, and he pleaded guilty not to the theft of the money, but to keeping a company laptop.

“I kept my laptop and my cell phone too long after my employment ended,” he acknowledges but says he was locked out of his office, which meant he couldn’t retrieve family photos or his passport.

Pompo entered what’s known as an Alford plea, in which someone pleads guilty, but is not admitting to a crime.

“The only reason I agreed to take any plea was to move on with my life,” he told 7 News.

“I’m positive that if I did not take the step of spending exorbitant fees to defend myself I would likely be talking to you from behind a jail cell. And that’s not fair,” he said.

Pompo also surrendered $32,900, but as reported, Jefferson County Judge David Renzi ordered the money be put in an escrow account for a judge to decide who should get it. Pompo says a settlement is in the works.

Pompo says he’s learned a lot in the last two years - “It’s been very difficult for my family. It’s been a lesson about what is important in life, and what we need to focus on.”