Syracuse, NY — Former Upstate administrator Sergio Garcia pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor Wednesday, admitting that he submitted a puffed up resume to get his $340,000-a-year job at the taxpayer funded university and hospital.
Garcia’s plea bargain left Upstate’s former Chief of Staff with a criminal record, but spared him a felony conviction. Prosecutor Melanie Carden had sought a felony, accusing Garcia of intentionally lying on his resume as part of a greater plan to defraud the university; Garcia’s lawyer, Joseph Bergh, had argued no crime was committed, saying his client simply exaggerated his resume.
The plea comes after a long-running investigation that began after Garcia quit in 2018 following a controversial speech that included exaggerated remarks about his foreign service. The subsequent investigation uncovered exaggerations on his resume about his work in the U.S. Department of State — he wasn’t “Chief of Staff,” as he claimed — and there were questions about the validity of his college degree.
In court, Garcia admitted to “falsehoods and exaggerations” on his resume.
He would have escaped criminal charges if he’d puffed his resume to work for a private hospital. But because he was hired by then-Upstate President Danielle Laraque-Arena to work at a public institution, his resume was considered an official government document.
That led a grand jury earlier this year to indict Garcia on felony charges of defrauding the government and filing a false instrument. Garcia pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor version of filing a false instrument, admitting that he filed false information with the state-owned hospital, but not that he was intentionally defrauding taxpayers.
The investigation isn’t over. Left undecided after Garcia’s plea is how much money he stole from taxpayers by taking his huge yearly salary in portions of 2017 and 2018.
A judge, Gordon Cuffy, will hear arguments