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Former New York DOCS Food Director Pleads Guilty to Grand Larceny

Howard Dean, the state employee who ran New York’s prison food services for 17 years, was treated like a big cheese by private vendors. In return, according to investigators, he gave them the secret ingredient for the cheese sauce served at prisons throughout the state.

The New York Department of Correctional Services (NYDOCS) ended up purchasing $300,000 worth of cheese sauce annually from Global Food Industries. And Dean, 66, who retired in 2008 as director of the prison system’s food production center in Oneida County, ate free steak dinners while his staff enjoyed free Christmas parties and picnics courtesy of the food vendors, according to reports released in April and August 2010 by New York’s Comptroller and Inspector General.

Overall, Dean allegedly steered $2.5 million in contracts to favored food vendors, including Global Food Industries and Good Source, Inc. He was also accused of faking travel records, falsifying hotel invoices and submitting fraudulent timesheets to sucker the state out of approximately $500,000 while employed with NYDOCS. [See: PLN, Nov. 2010, p.25].

“It’s ironic that Dean, as head of a criminal justice system, was no less a law violator than the prison population he was charged with feeding,” New York Inspector General Joseph Fisch said. He added that Dean’s schemes were so blatant, “the only thing missing from advertising his misbehavior was neon lights.”

To position Global Food for NYDOCS’s cheese-sauce contract, Dean and his staff provided the company with a formula that would preserve the sauce’s consistency throughout the so-called “cook-chill” process, which is claimed to have lowered costs, improved food quality and reduced prisoners’ complaints. In exchange, Global Food and Good Source bought Dean and his staff free dinners at a local steakhouse in Verona, New York. The dinners ranged from $25 to $55 per person, according to investigators.

Additionally, two hundred prison employees regularly gathered at annual summer picnics at the Tagasoke Campground in Sylvan Beach, where they enjoyed free wine coolers, hot dogs, campground entry fees and parking, all paid for by the food vendors. Any leftover money from the picnics and annual Christmas parties was deposited in an employee benefit fund.

Investigators also alleged that Dean directed Sysco Food Services, which has been the primary food vendor for New York state agencies since 1995, to purchase products from the vendors that were providing him with free dinners and other perks.

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said Dean created a culture among his subordinates in which they cast a “blind eye” to what their boss was doing. For example, investigators said Dean had submitted timesheets for five-day work weeks even though he admitted he hadn’t worked a single Friday in 17 years.

Dean was charged with grand larceny in September 2010 – although the statute of limitations prevented him from being charged with thefts and misconduct over his entire tenure as NYDOCS’s food director.

“The actions for which Mr. Dean was charged took place prior to the current administration, which corrected the lack of oversight that allowed this behavior to occur,” said NYDOCS spokesman Erik Kriss. “Although Mr. Dean helped build a cost-effective food operation that continues to save money for the state prison system and for many counties, we do not condone any actions by him or any other employee that fall outside the boundaries of acceptable conduct.”

Dean’s attorney, Dennis Sedor, remained optimistic and indicated that blame might be spread elsewhere. “I’m confident he is not the only person involved,” Sedor remarked.
“There are others, both above and below him. This wasn’t done in a vacuum, in isolation.”

Ultimately, though, Dean was the only one convicted, after pleading guilty in March 2011 to second-degree grand larceny related to submitting false attendance and travel vouchers.
He was sentenced to six months in jail, five years of probation and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution. Yet more than 18 months later, as of October 2012, he had not reported to serve his jail time, citing heart surgery and other medical issues.

“To incarcerate him could constitute a death sentence, and I don’t think anyone wants that,” said Sedor. “I think everybody is looking to protect his health at this time.”

Sources: Associated Press,,,

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