May 15, 2014 | 2145 views
Four men indicted for stealing $12.4 million from Far Rockaway pre-school
A pair of Five Towners involved in seven-year long scheme
Four men, including two Five Towns residents, were indicted for a scheme in which they allegedly stole more than $12.4 million in city and state money between 2005 and 2012 — funding that was expected to help special needs students between 3- and 5-years-old — from a Far Rockaway pre-school.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown identified the men as Ira Kurman, 52, of Westwood Road, Hewlett; Roy Hoffman, Hazel Place, Woodmere; Rabbi Samuel Hiller, 56, Elvira Drive, Far Rockaway, and Daniel Lanaido, East 17th Street, Brooklyn.
“It is disheartening to see a betrayal of the magnitude alleged in this indictment,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “The public funds provided to Island Child Care Development Center were earmarked for special needs pre-schoolers with disabilities but instead were allegedly use by the defendants for their own purposes. This investigation makes clear that frauds of this nature will inevitably be exposed and rooted out and that those who engage in them will be brought to justice.”
The alleged thefts were uncovered after the state comptroller’s office told the center and specifically Kurman, the former executive director, that it was going to conduct a routine audit of the special education itinerant teachers funds that are given to the center. Auditors arrived for a meeting in July 2012, but were told that Kurman left his position and supposedly took center’s financial books and records with him. Following the auditors investigation they notified the district attorney’s office.
Hoffman was hired by the center as an independent auditor as required by state law, Hiller is the center’s assistant director and Lanaido is a self-described “investor” in the center.
Between those seven years, the center received about $27 million in state funding. It is alleged that $12.5 million was illegally funneled by the men for their personal use, to their families, other businesses and to local members of their religious communities.