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Huntley associates charged with bilking state funds

TimesLedger Newspapers

The state attorney general Wednesday indicted four people who were connected to state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), including her niece, on charges of stealing thousands of dollars in taxpayer money that was meant to go to the senator’s non-profit.

The senator, who was not available for comment Wednesday afternoon, was not charged by state authorities. However, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the member item funds she secured for an organization she founded in southeast Queens went into the pockets of her associates.

Patricia D. Savage, an aide to Huntley, and Lynn H. Smith, the senator’s niece who lives in her home, were indicted on 11 counts of grand larceny and offering a false instrument in the theft of nearly $30,000 that was set aside for Parent Workshop Inc., a non-profit which focuses on youth outreach and education assistance in southeast Queens, the attorney general said.

“The charges announced today send a strong message that those who abuse their positions to rip off taxpayers will be prosecuted,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

Two other Parent Workshop associates, David R. Gantt and Roger N. Scotland, were charged with falsifying business records for allegedly trying to cover up the theft, according to the attorney general.

Scotland, who is the president of the Southern Queens Park Association, was also charged with tampering with physical evidence, Schneiderman said.

Savage, who was the president of Parent Workshop, and Smith, who acted as the group’s treasurer, falsely asserted that the member item money given to the non-profit would be used to “hold workshops for and conduct outreach to parents on the workings of the New York City public school system,” Schneiderman said.

The pair allegedly submitted a fraudulent contract and fake vouchers to claim the $29,950 they received from the state between April 2008 and March 2009, according to the attorney general.

During that time period, however, the Parent Workshop had no events or outreach, the attorney general said.

Gantt allegedly falsified records to make it look like he was paid in cash for the phony workshops and Scotland allegedly created a false record in an attempt to hide the theft once the investigation started, according to Schneiderman.

The attorney general’s office would not comment on whether there are more indictments to come as part of the investigation, which was done together with state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.

“Abuse and fraud will not be tolerated. By combining forces, my office and the attorney general have exposed and are prosecuting this egregious theft of state funds which were intended for the public good,” the comptroller said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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