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Councilman makes not-guilty plea to New Canaan larceny charges

Updated 10:22 pm, Friday, November 15, 2013
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STAMFORD -- A newly re-elected West Haven city councilman and former New Canaan banker pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of embezzling $172,000 from two bank customers.

Former New Canaan Chase Bank employee Stephen DeCrescenzo, 36, of 9 Apple Tree Terrace, West Haven, turned himself over to New Canaan police on Nov. 1 and was charged with two counts of first-degree larceny.

After his morning appearance in Stamford on Friday, DeCrescenzo's attorney, Mark Sherman, said given his recent election win, DeCrescenzo "is sensitive to the fact that this is a delicate situation, but he is innocent until proven guilty. We are going to take some time to investigate the allegations and take the appropriate steps."

On election day following his arrest, DeCrescenzo was the biggest vote-getter of the four at-large city council candidates in West Haven and was returned to his council seat for a fifth time.

The case was first heard in Norwalk and then transferred to the Part A docket in Stamford, where the most serious cases in the area are adjudicated.

According to a police press release, the investigation into DeCrescenzo, who because of his position as city council chairman is first in line of succession to become mayor, was placed under investigation in early August after Chase Bank security called police to report fraudulent activity involving the accounts of three customers.

An investigation showed that DeCrescenzo, whose title was bank relationship manager, allegedly embezzled the money from two accounts and used a third account to filter the money, the release said.

The councilman, who began his career at a beverage company, moved up the banking ladder quickly. According to a resume contained in his court file, in 2007 he was president and branch manager at Cornerstone Mortgage in Essex. From there he went to Bank of America in Norwich, where he was a small business specialist.

He began working for Chase Bank in Milford in 2011, where he was also a small business specialist. In 2012 he was brought to the New Canaan branch, where he was hired to increase business customers and work outside the branch to develop new banking relationships in New Canaan and Wilton.

After his arrest, DeCrescenzo was held by police on $300,000 bond, but the banker was released the following day by a Norwalk judge after signing a written promise to appear.

According to his arrest affidavit, DeCrescenzo had been moving money around different accounts since last October.

Chase investigators gave police the copies of all the withdrawal slips that were used and time-stamped still pictures obtained from the surveillance system showing DeCrescenzo at the teller window submitting the slips and receiving cash, the affidavit said. While it is not uncommon for a personal banker to retrieve money for customers and bring it back to his office to give it to waiting customers, none of the customers he was withdrawing money from were in the bank at the time, the affidavit said.

DeCrescenzo was seen on camera returning to his desk with the envelope full of money and putting it into his desk drawer. Later, he moved the envelope into his personal backpack, the affidavit said.