Allege Boss Tapped Employee's Retirement Account

Bruce Bates, the longtime emergency preparedness coordinator for East Hampton Town, turned himself in last Thursday morning after being notified by the office of the Suffolk County District Attorney that he was about to be arrested and charged with grand larceny.

Mr. Bates, 55, listed in the complaint as vice president of Bates Electric on Fort Pond Boulevard in Springs, is accused of diverting money from an Oppenheimer Funds retirement plan set up for a Bates employee, David Ross, who has worked for the company since 1979.

Mr. Bates is charged with stealing over $3,000, though the matter is still under investigation by the Suffolk County Labor, Insurance and Revenue Crime Bureau, and the final amount may be much more, according to the D.A.’s office.

The alleged theft was discovered by Mr. Ross’s accountant, James Preston, in April. “At that time we noticed that there were no contributions to the fund for several years,” Mr. Preston told county detectives. He advised Mr. Ross to stop paying into the plan and contacted the Department of Labor, which notified the district attorney’s office.

According to Mr. Preston’s statement, Bates Electric set up the retirement accounts in about 2000, with employees paying in $100 a week. Mr. Ross has paid in ever since, he said.

Besides working for Mr. Ross, Mr. Preston said he also did the taxes for Bates Electric. In 2006, he told detectives, Mr. Bates withdrew money from the Oppenheimer Fund, seeking a “better investment return.”

Mr. Bates was arraigned before East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky, and was released after posting $2,500 bail. His attorney, Edward Burke Jr., expressed confidence afterward that “this matter can be resolved in a swift and favorable fashion.”