Tag Archives: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Huntley co-defendants plead guilty, agree to return nearly $30G


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

A week after their former boss, State Senator Shirley Huntley, pleaded guilty to embezzlement cover-up and falsifying evidence, three co-defendants have followed suit.

Huntley pleaded guilty on Wednesday, February 13 after nearly $30,000 in taxpayer dollars went missing; her co-conspirators, Patricia Savage, Lynn Smith and David Gantt, entered their pleas a week later.

Savage and Smith confirmed their roles in an illegal member item theft scheme and a cover-up involving a sham nonprofit group, Parent Workshop, in which they claimed to use funds to hold workshops and conduct outreach to parents about the public school system. Instead, the pair pocketed the money, and there were no workshops. Gantt pleaded guilty to falsifying records claiming that he was paid for conducting these workshops, when he never did so, according to the attorney general’s office.

“There are no excuses for public officials and their associates who game the system to line their pockets, and then engage in a brazen cover up when their crimes are exposed,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman also said that state taxpayers will be fully reimbursed for the stolen money.

Savage and Smith agreed to pay the state of New York the exact amount of money taken. Gantt was not charged with taking any of the funds.

“There is no place in public service for those who enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers,” said Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. “These individuals defrauded the public.”

Savage and Smith are scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, March 27 and Gantt on Friday, March 29 in Nassau County Supreme Court. If convicted, they will maintain a felony charge on their records and serve five years of probation.

 

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Wills investigated for missing $33,000 grant


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Councilmember Ruben Wills

A Queens councilmember is taking heat for failing to account for thousands of taxpayers’ dollars given to his non-profit organization.

Councilmember Ruben Wills is under investigation from State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after he failed to account for a $33,000 grant for his nonprofit, New York 4 Life. He is also being reviewed by the city council.

“In light of troubling reports and court records evidencing Councilmember Wills’ lack of cooperation with a state investigation, including his assertion of his Fifth Amendment rights, we have referred this matter to the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee for a formal review,” said Council representative Jamie McShane.

McShane added that Wills was removed from the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team and that all decisions about funding allocations for his district will be determined by Speaker Christine Quinn’s office.

Although New York 4 Life does not have a web page, the councilmember’s web site explains that the nonprofit is an organization “which has helped single mothers champion critical issues such as civic literacy and financial empowerment.”

The grant in question was reportedly approved from State Senator Shirley Huntley to New York 4 Life in 2008 for a single mothers’ breakfast, single fathers’ luncheon, a “children and youth obesity campaign,” and an “adopt a commercial strip” program, according to court filings.

However, after the money was paid by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) in September of 2010, neither Wills nor the organization responded with documents showing how the money was spent.

It is also unclear as to whether the events actually occurred.

The court papers also said the OCFS sent a letter to request the accounting of the grant or a refund in April, 2011, but the nonprofit didn’t respond, at which time OCFS contacted the Attorney General’s office.

Schneiderman’s office issued a subpoena in February of this year, but received no report of the money.

While meeting with lawyers from the AG’s office, Wills walked out during questioning, pleading the Fifth Amendment.

Published reports claim that Schneiderman has filed a motion to force New York 4 Life to open its books. Reports also claim that no tax returns were ever filed for New York 4 Life, which was initially registered to Wills’ residence, but was later changed to his 2009 campaign office.

Calls to Wills’ office for comment were not returned as of press time.

Wills was elected to office in November of 2010 by winning a Special Election, after the passing of Councilmember Thomas White Jr.

 

New foreclosure help


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

New legislation by Senator Malcolm A. Smith may increase settlements for victims of foreclosure abuse.

“Home purchasing is the largest single investment that individuals make in their lifetime,” said Smith. “Banks committed crimes against homeowners and restitution needs to be fair. I am introducing this legislation that I believe will bring parity to my constituents in the city and state of New York. I applaud the efforts of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to bring the banks to task for their erroneous dealings with home buyers.”

A settlement for $136 million was reached between the state and five of the nation’s most prominent mortgage service companies over perceived foreclosure abuse. According to a spokesperson from Smith’s office, this agreement includes relief for victims of wrongful foreclosure conduct and loan modifications, including “principal reductions for homeowners and funds that can be used to cornerstone foreclosure legal assistance and housing counseling programs.”

Under the attorney general’s proposed agreement, homeowners are expected to garner between $1,500 to $2,000 in retributions. Smith alleges that these amounts pale in comparison to the true monetary compensation homeowners should be given, calling them “unfair” and “insulting.”

According to Smith’s office, the proposed legislation could earn homeowners “the full amount of the down payment paid or 20 percent of the original appraised value of the qualifying residential real property.” If the eligible homeowner no longer lives in the house that was the subject of a foreclosure, they may qualify for the full amount of a down payment on new residential property.

“[Schneiderman’s effort] is the launching pad for my legislation which provides for increased financial payments to victims of the foreclosure crisis,” said Smith.