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Wayne Post
  • Two plead guilty to insurance fraud in Clifton Springs fire

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  • CLIFTON SPRINGS — An elementary teacher on administrative assignment and a former Clifton Springs police officer last week pleaded guilty to charges related to a 2010 fire at 31 South St. in Clifton Springs. On Jan. 16, Melissa Eagley and Steven Eagley Jr. pleaded guilty to third-degree insurance fraud, Ontario County District Attorney R. Michael Tantillo said.
    A separate charge, in which Melissa was charged with third-degree arson, is scheduled to be tried in Ontario County Court this coming spring, said Tantillo. That charge stemmed from a second fire on Oct. 5, 2011 — at the same address as the 2010 fire, Melissa’s former residence of 31 South St.
    Melissa is a tenured elementary special education teacher in the Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District (Midlakes). Following the charges this past spring, the district — in a release April 2, 2013 — said Melissa Eagley had been relieved of teaching duties and placed on an alternative administrative assignment.
    Midlakes Superintendent Mike Ford said Wednesday Melissa Eagley reports to work, doing desk work, and does not teach.
    “Due to the serious nature of what she was charged with, we felt it best she not be teaching,” Ford said.
    With this latest development in the case, Ford said he expects the Midlakes Board of Education to decide on a disciplinary hearing. Such a hearing would be decided in executive session. With a tenured teacher, you must continue paying them at least until a disciplinary hearing has concluded, said Ford. The outcome of the hearing as it affects the teacher’s status is made public, he said.
    Melissa Eagley began working in the district in 2005 as a special education teacher at the elementary level.
    “Our primary interest is always our students, and these situations are difficult for everybody,” Ford added. “Our goal is always to ensure the safety of our students and ensure that they are being taught by people who should be teaching them.”
    Ontario County sheriff’s deputies reported last spring that Melissa, 32, and her husband Steven, 36, both of Maple Avenue in Palmyra, were formally charged April 2 as a result of sealed Grand Jury indictments. Melissa was charged with third-degree arson stemming from a fire on Oct. 5, 2011, at her former residence, 31 South St. in Clifton Springs, deputies said. Additionally, she was charged with third-degree grand larceny and third-degree insurance fraud from alleged discrepancies found in documentation relating to a May 14, 2010 fire, also at 31 South St.
    Steven Eagley Jr. was charged with third-degree grand larceny and third-degree insurance fraud as a result of the 2010 fire. Tantillo said in April that the couple had allegedly received about $12,000 for living arrangements and didn’t disclose that they had been staying with acquaintances. The cause of the 2010 fire was ruled as accidental, Tantillo said.
    Steven last week also pleaded guilty to official misconduct. He had been additionally charged with two counts of second-degree forgery and official misconduct stemming from an alleged incident in 2003. According to Tantillo, Steven — a member of the National Guard in New York State — was activated and ordered to be deployed to Iraq in 2003. He allegedly forged a letter from Village of Clifton Springs Police Chief Scott Upchurch — his employer at the time — asking the Army to not deploy him because he was necessary to the police department. Upchurch never signed the letter, Tantillo said this past spring, and the alleged forgery wasn’t discovered until recently during the course of the fire investigation.
    Page 2 of 2 - Steven Eagley Jr. joined the Clifton Springs Police Department in 2002. He submitted his letter of resignation last March, during a Clifton Springs Village Board meeting.
    Tantillo said both Eagleys are placed on interim probation for one year, at which time they are due back in court for the judge to determine the final sentence. Ontario County Surrogate Court Judge Frederick Reed is the judge in the case.
    Along with complying with the terms of their probation, the Eagleys must pay restitution of $12,000 within the year, Tantillo said.

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