Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mother Of New York Politician Pleads Guilty To Embezzling $197K From Non-Profit

From the New York Daily News on 2/9/2015:

Helene Heastie pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree grand larceny after her arrest for embezzling $197,000 from a nonprofit in the mid-1990s. The new speaker of the Assembly had remained silent about the incident until a statement issued Friday by his spokesman.

For newly anointed Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, it was a painful moment about which he has remained silent: the arrest and conviction of his mother in the mid-1990s on charges of looting a taxpayer-funded nonprofit that was supposed to help the elderly and sick.

In his first public comments on this incident, Heastie (D-Bronx) addressed what he dubbed “a sad chapter” in his life in a statement issued Friday by his spokesman Michael Whyland in response to questions from the Daily News.

“The lessons imparted to the speaker over the course of a lifetime, including this painful and sad time for his family, included owning up to mistakes and taking responsibility,” Whyland stated.

In 1997 — three years before Heastie was first elected to the Assembly — his mother, Helene, was arrested by the Bronx district attorney and charged with embezzling $197,000 from a nonprofit called the Southeast Bronx Neighborhood Center.

The organization was funded entirely by tax dollars and was supposed to provide home health care to Medicare and Medicaid recipients. Helene Heastie was a high-level employee there for many years.

The DA charged she and a co-worker systematically raided the charity’s bank accounts to pay off credit card debt and make personal purchases. They used a rubber stamp of the charity’s board chairman, a local judge, to authorize checks, including for $5,877 worth of furniture for Helene Heastie's home in the Bronx.

When a co-worker at Southeast Bronx tipped off the chairman to the ruse, Helene Heastie and the co-worker were terminated in November 1995 and arrested in April 1997. On Friday, Whyland called the arrest “a sad chapter in the speaker’s life,” made worse by debilitating illnesses afflicting both his mother and father at the time.

Helene Heastie ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree grand larceny, a felony, and was sentenced to five years’ probation. She died soon after.

Whyland said Heastie believes the experience underscored the need to ensure nonprofits spend public dollars properly: “That is why Carl Heastie believed then, as he believes now, that every dollar provided to these organizations should be spent on serving those in need.”

Heastie is aware that this is a particularly sensitive issue for him, given the hundreds of thousands of public dollars he’s steered to nonprofits during his 14 years in Albany.

On Sunday, The News reported Heastie sponsored more than $600,000 for a Bronx nonprofit that had no official board, stopped filing tax returns while receiving some of that money, and went bankrupt. Heastie responded, “It was a group that did good work. We give the documentation, but it’s really up to the regulatory agencies to follow through on their paperwork. I didn’t have any involvement in the day-to-day operations. But I will say this, I would expect any organization that gets public funding should follow with the documentation.”


Read the whole story here.

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