Monday, August 7, 2017

Former Director Of Roosevelt Island Senior Center Pleads Guilty To Grand Larceny

As previously reported in June 2016, the NYC Department For The Ageing (DFTA) replaced the long time operator of the Roosevelt Island Senior Center with the Carter Burden Network. No reason was announced by DFTA for the change in the Roosevelt Island Senior Center operator but rumors of improprieties were widespread.

At that time, I asked Roosevelt Island Seniors Association (RISA) President Barbara Parker if:

... an investigation is being conducted regarding Roosevelt Island Senior Center practices.
Ms Parker replied:
No. There is no investigation being conducted regarding the Roosevelt Island Senior Association.
Last week, I received a tip and then confirmed it's accuracy with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. According to the Manhattan District Attorney's office,  former Roosevelt Island Senior Center Director Rema Townsend:
... pleaded guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and one count of Petit Larceny in satisfaction of all the charges...
arising out of activities involving the Roosevelt Island Senior Center.

According to this report from the NYC Department of Investigations filed with the Manhattan District Attorney:
... I have spoken with defendant. She informed me that from prior to 2010 through in or about June 2016, she was the Director of the Roosevelt Island Senior Center, which is located in New York County and which provides services to senior citizens. Defendant stated that the Senior Center was funded and overseen by the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association ("RISA"), a not-for-profit organization located in New York County.

I have reviewed business records of Amalgamated Bank for accounts in the name of Roosevelt Island Seniors Association, which have a New York County address. They show that approximately 109 checks drawn on those accounts were made payable to _____ [Individual #1]. The first check was dated January 27, 2012, the last check was dated May 27, 2016, and the remaining checks were dated throughout 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. The aggregate value of the checks was over $22,900. I have reviewed business records of [Redacted By Editor] Bank for an account in defendant's name. They show that 91 of those checks, with an aggregate value of over $18,500, were deposited into defendant’s bank account.

Defendant stated, in sum and substance, that she caused all of the checks to be issued. _____ [Individual #1] is defendant's son's father, and defendant had attempted to hire _____ [Individual #1] to make food deliveries for RISA. After some period of time, _____ [Individual #1] stopped working for RISA, and defendant then temporarily split the food-delivery responsibilities with a man named _____ [Individual #2]. _____ [Individual #2] requested payment in cash, so, in order to accommodate him, defendant paid _____ [Individual #2] $50 a week in cash - approximately half the value of the checks made payable to _____ [Individual #1]. The cash came from the checks made payable to _____ [Individual #1], which defendant either negotiated into her personal bank account or which she gave to _____ [Individual #1], who then gave her cash. For the time she was splitting delivery responsibilities, defendant paid herself the balance of those _____ [Individual #1] checks - the amount that had not been paid to _____ [Individual #2]. Defendant also acknowledged that she had previously been told by an auditor representing the New York City Department for the Aging, which provided nearly all of the funding for RISA, that defendant was not allowed to collect both her salary as Director and also funds for food deliveries.

Defendant stated that at some point in time she began relying exclusively on _____ [Individual #2] to make the food deliveries, that she continued paying him $50 a week in cash from the _____ [Individual #1] checks, and that she took the remaining funds from those checks and placed them in RISA's petty cash drawer, which she alone supervised.

I have reviewed RISA "Weekly Homebound Deliveries/Route Sheet[s]", which defendant stated were used to record food deliveries to seniors. There are multiple sheets that identify "_____ [Individual #1]" as the deliverer, and sheets in 2014 and 2015 that appear to have been initialed or signed by _____ [Individual #1]. Defendant stated that she signed _____ [Individual #1]'s name on Route Sheets after he ceased working there.

I have spoken with Gretchen Robinson, the Compliance and Internal Controls Officer at Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation ("RIOC"), which manages Roosevelt Island and, among other things, issues grants. Robinson supplied me with a grant application submitted to RIOC by RISA and RIOC business records relating to that application. Defendant stated that she had prepared the application and sent the documents. The RIOC records show that RIOC issued two $6,500 checks to RISA, dated August 26, 2014 and February 6, 2015, in response to defendant's grant application. They show also that defendant subsequently submitted, in support of those payments, a $3,323.36 invoice for the purchase of a refrigerator, a $1,420.59 invoice for the purchase of a stove, and a $1989.11 invoice for painting services.

I am informed by Sasha Fishman, the Associate Commissioner of Budget and Fiscal Operations at the New York City Department for the Aging, that the Department funds various goods and services paid for by RISA. According to Fishman, and based on my review of business records maintained by the Department, on or about February 22, 2016, the Department received from RISA the same stove, refrigerator, and painting invoices in support of a funding request. On or about April 12, 2016, the Department issued a $6,408.70 payment to fund those invoices. I am informed further that the Department was not told that the items had previously been funded by RIOC, and I am informed that the Department would not have reimbursed RISA for those invoices had it known that they had been funded by a separate organization. Defendant acknowledged that she submitted the invoices to the Department in support of the $6,408.70 payment. She stated further that she believed it was permissible to request and receiving funding from two different agencies for the same goods and services.

I have spoken with Anthony Caputo, the Chief Executive Officer at Concepts of Independence, an organization headquartered in Manhattan that is a fiscal intermediary and that administers consumer directed personal assistance services. I have also reviewed business records of that organization. According to Caputo and the business records I reviewed, from on or about May 2010 through on or about July 6, 2012, defendant was employed as a Personal Assistant and provided services under the supervision and direction of the consumer in accordance to a Medicaid plan of care. I have reviewed weekly timesheets from the week ending March 25, 2011 through the week ending July 6, 2012, all of which bear what appears to be defendant's signature. They show that during each week in that time period, defendant was working ten hours a day, Monday through Friday, for a consumer who resided in the Bronx. As a result of her timesheet submissions, defendant received $50,000 dollars from Concepts of Independence. According to defendant, during that time period, she was also a full-time Director of the Roosevelt Island Senior Center with a salary of tens of thousands of dollars.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 2018.

Here's Ms. Townsend describing Roosevelt Island Senior Center activities and programs during an October 14, 2015 presentation to the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Public Purpose Funds (PPF) Committee.

The Roosevelt Island Daily has more.