Jack Kramer /ctnewsjunkie photo

HARTFORD, CT —  Struggling with his emotions Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said he thought “prison should be on the table” if the former lawyer for the Senate Republican caucus is convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican PAC.

Michael Cronin, a West Hartford attorney, was charged Wednesday with stealing $267,800 from the Senate Republican Leadership Committee PAC between 2012 and 2018.

Cronin, 56, was arrested Wednesday and released on a $50,000 bond.

Courtesy of the Connecticut Dept. of Criminal Justice

At the end of an unrelated press conference Wednesday, a clearly shaken Fasano said the news of Cronin’s alleged wrongdoings and arrest has been “tough.”

“This is someone who was held in great respect in this building. Someone who worked here for 20 years and had friends across the aisle,” Fasano said. “Someone a lot of us considered a friend.”

Fasano said he got a call “last night that Mike was turning himself in.” Fasano added that he hasn’t spoken with Cronin himself since news of the alleged thefts surfaced.

A probe into the theft started in 2018 when irregularities were detected, the chief state’s attorney’s office said. The vendors who did business with the PAC had not been paid after providing the services, which including mailings and advertising on behalf of Republican candidates running for state Senate seats.

Cronin is scheduled to appear in Hartford Superior Court on Friday, Feb. 22.

Cronin was fired from his position as counsel for the Senate Republicans office last December when the issues with the PAC funds were discovered.

Fasano said he had quickly reviewed the arrest warrant and from what he’s seen, “This goes back quite a way, though it did ramp up the last few years.”

Fasano said his understanding is the taking of money from the PAC goes back to at least 2012 and “perhaps earlier.”

Quizzed by reporters, Fasano said he had no idea why Cronin allegedly stole the funds.

“I know there were some personal items bought, checks made out to himself, one to a landlord,” Fasano said.

But Fasano reiterated he did not know why Cronin allegedly needed the funds.

In a affidavit, Cronin, who is divorced and the father of three, said he stole the money “to maintain his lifestyle and pay his personal bills, including his living expenses.”

Fasano said while he had always considered Cronin a friend that the punishment should be harsh for Cronin, if the charges turn out to be true.

Fasano said that Cronin was a lawyer “and lawyers are held to a higher standard.”

“He hurt a lot of people and he has to answer for that.”

That is why, Fasano reiterated, he thought jail time was “without a doubt” an option if Cronin is eventually found guilty.

Fasano added that the caucus already filed a civil lawsuit against Cronin to recoup the money.