Blind World Magazine

Bookkeeper who diverted funds and overbilled blind vendors, sentenced to prison

December 17, 2005.
Times Union, Albany NY.

ALBANY -- Schenectady bookkeeper William Plante says he really didn't mean to steal $126,000 from blind clients in the Empire State Plaza and State Education Building who relied on his services.

"I gave the money away," Plante, 31, said, fighting tears Friday, as he was sentenced to up to four years in state prison. "It sounds stupid. But my psychiatrist says I don't know better."

Plante pleaded guilty to grand larceny charges in September, two days before victim Ralph LaRosa, the owner of Ralph's News in Empire State Plaza, died.

Plante admitted he diverted funds and overbilled between January 1999 and April 30, 2004, for his own use, and then failed to pay taxes and other bills for the clients who depended on him.

"The victims in this case put their faith and trust in the defendant and he violated that trust to the tune of $126,000," Albany County prosecutor Christopher Baynes said.

Plante said his behavior was due to a bipolar personality disorder and a willingness to assist others.

That enraged Albany County Judge Thomas A. Breslin, who scoffed at the notion.

"It's the least acceptable response I've ever heard," Breslin said. "This reminds me of my kids' saying 'the dog ate my homework' when they were 5 years old."

Rose LaRosa, the vendor's wife, sat patiently through Plante's sentencing, clutching her white cane and the arm of her son. She said restitution can't come quickly enough to made good on the tens of thousands of dollars in overdue tax bills she now must make.

"I don't think it's fair," she said. "We were all blind, and just trying to raise families the best way we can. I shouldn't have to raise the money. He's the one who committed the crime."

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at 434-2403 or by e-mail at

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