Ex-surgeon general Novello admits to fraud

Associated press / June 27, 2009
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ALBANY, N.Y. - Former surgeon general Antonia Novello pleaded guilty yesterday to a felony in a deal with prosecutors to avoid prison time for forcing state employees to handle personal chores when she was New York’s health commissioner.

The deal calls for 250 hours of community service at a health clinic, $22,500 in restitution and a $5,000 fine. Novello faced up to 12 years in prison if convicted on all charges. She was accused of costing taxpayers $48,000 by misusing the workers.

She pleaded guilty to filing a false document involving a worker’s duties.

Investigators said Novello used state workers to chauffeur her on shopping trips and arrange furniture at her apartment.

Novello was paid $256,000 a year as Governor George Pataki’s health commissioner from 1999 to 2006. She was surgeon general under President George H.W. Bush from 1990 to 1993. As part of the plea deal, she will keep her physician’s license.