Four Close to State Senator Indicted in Nonprofit Fraud Scheme

Four people were indicted late last week in connection with a scheme to pocket roughly $30,000 in state funds using a nonprofit set up by State Sen. Shirley Huntley.

On Dec. 7, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced the indictments of Patricia D. Savage, president of the nonprofit Parent Workshop, Inc., and Senator Huntley’s aide, as well as Lynn H. Smith, the nonprofit’s treasurer, David Gantt and Roger Scotland, two others with ties to the nonprofit, according to a copy of the indictment.

Parent Workshop, Inc., based in Nassau County, is a not-for-profit corporation created in March 2006, whose stated mission goal was to increase parents’ knowledge of how the city school system works.

The indictment alleges Savage and Smith— who is also Huntley’s niece—submitted fraudulent documents to the state in order to obtain public money from a legislative member item, which is money or state grant funding sponsored by a state legislator for a particular purpose and a specific grantee.

However, instead of providing the promised programs, the two defendants allegedly pocketed approximately $29,950. Gantt and Scotland were charged with falsifying documents to cover up the theft once the investigation commenced.

When reached for comment on Tuesday, Huntley issued a brief statement where she maintained that she had nothing to do with the scheme.

“The joint investigation by the Attorney General and the Comptroller found no wrongdoing on my part,” Senator Huntley stated. “I am confident that when all of the facts are presented they will prove I acted appropriately. I will continue to cooperate fully with any legal proceedings surrounding this case.”

Beginning in April 2008, Savage and Smith allegedly told Department of State officials that Parent Workshop, Inc. would use the member item funds secured by Huntley to hold workshops for and conduct outreach to parents on the workings of the city’s public school system.

Instead, the indictment alleges that Savage and Smith never held those events, while they falsely asserted in multiple submissions to the DOS that, from April 2008 through March 2009, the Parent Workshop had held workshops and conducted outreach visits with parents.

Savage and Smith submitted a fraudulent contract and five fake vouchers – the highest being a check for $5,850 in April 2009 – to illegally obtain that money.

Based on these submissions, the DOS provided $29,950 to the Parent Workshop – the sum the two defendants are charged with stealing.

Both Savage and Smith are charged with 11 total counts of grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing.

The legal documents accuse Gantt of falsifying records so he could claim that he was paid in cash for conducting workshops as a consultant when, in fact, he never conducted any workshops. Scotland, the President of the Southern Queens Park Association, has been charged also with creating a false record in an attempt to hide the theft from investigators.

Both Gantt and Scotland are charged with falsifying business records, although Gantt faces four counts while Scotland is charged with one count, in addition to tampering with evidence and conspiracy.

Since 1999, the state legislature has distributed more than $900 million through legislative member items to more than 20,000 nonprofit entities.

Schneiderman and Dinapoli believe the indictments sent a powerful warning against those who are thinking of defrauding state funds.

“The charges announced today send a strong message that those who abuse their positions to rip off taxpayers will be prosecuted,” Schneiderman said. “My office’s partnership with the Comptroller is designed to combat such corruption, and we will continue to work tirelessly to protect every penny of taxpayer money during these challenging economic times.”

“Taking money intended for families in need is unconscionable,” DiNapoli stated. “Abuse and fraud will not be tolerated. By combining forces, my office and the Attorney General have exposed and are prosecuting this egregious theft of state funds which were intended for the public good.”

By Jean-Paul Salamanca



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