Queens Special Ed Provider Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charge

A Flushing-based special education provider pleaded guilty in federal court March 7 to charges he stole millions of dollars in federal, state and city aid meant for children with disabilities.

Cheon Park, 46, of Long Island, admitted to using his company, Bilingual SEIT & Preschool Inc., to overbill for tutoring and therapy services, and he received more than $94 million by various government organizations between 2005 and 2012, according to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

During that time period, Bilingual SEIT had a contract with the city Department of Education to provide publicly funded special education services and preschool programs to city schoolchildren aged three to five with physical, emotional and/or developmental disabilities. As of September 2012, the company operated out of five locations in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. It was headquartered in Flushing.

“Cheon Park has admitted his role in a criminal scheme to enrich himself by taking…funds intended for special needs children and diverting them for his own personal use,” Bharara said in a prepared statement. “With today’s guilty plea, he now stands convicted of a federal crime and faces the prospect of a substantial prison term.”

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a July 2012 audit on Bilingual SEIT that found the provider inappropriately charged the city DOE nearly $1.5 million for salaries, vehicle leases, and items such as cosmetics and children’s furniture.

“Cheon Park blatantly enriched himself to the tune of millions of dollars and deprived children with physical, developmental and emotional disabilities of the help they need,” DiNapoli said in a prepared statement. “His guilty plea…stands as a warning for those who attempt to cheat taxpayers and exploit gaps in oversight.”

DiNapoli has identified fraud and improper use of funds in a recent series of audits of special education providers. In December, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation – proposed by DiNapoli and sponsored by state Sen. John Flanagan (R-LI) and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood) – mandating audits of the more than 300 preschool education providers in the state.

By Anna Gustafson


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