A veteran embezzled thousands of dollars from organizations meant to help other veterans and now one of those organizations is facing the unthinkable. As YNN's Maria Valvanis explains, the money Ralph VanAlystne took is nothing compared to what his actions have caused for the VFW post in Gloversville.
GLOVERSVILLE, N.Y. -- Veteran Paul Downing, 82, helped build the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post with his bare hands. But Wednesday night, he learned the place he's spent his free time for the past 50 years will now just be a memory.
"It makes me very sad,” Downing said. “It's my home."
"This comes as the result of financial reasons. It's widely known we had a major theft here, we have a person in jail," said Commander Kevin Jones.
Former commander Ralph VanAlystne Sr. is serving a two to six year sentence. He admitted to stealing at least $186,000 from the American Legion Post, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 122 and the VFW.
"He would co-mingle money that should have gone to state racing and wagering for some games of chance that they were operating at the bar of these organizations and he slowly leached all the money from all three of the organizations," said District Attorney Louise Sira.
We spoke with representatives from the other two organizations. They say it's been a hard road, but they are still up and running.
"We estimate our loss at a quarter of a million dollars," Jones said.
But the real loss goes far beyond any monetary amount, because the nearly 300 member post say losing their hub is irreplaceable.
"It means the world to us without this we really have nowhere to go," said Louise Wilder.
Members will be able to join other VFW posts. The closest is in Broadalbin.
VanAlystne was ordered to pay restitution to the three organizations, but District Attorney Sira says it is unlikely any of that money will be seen before he is released from prison.
He's eligible for parole in June of 2013.