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Huntley and co-conspirators get probation in embezzlement scam

TimesLedger Newspapers

Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley and her accomplices in a scam that bilked taxpayers out of nearly $30,000 through a do-nothing nonprofit received light sentences in State Supreme Court in Nassau County last week as the disgraced lawmaker awaited sentencing in Brooklyn federal court on a separate case.

Huntley, who pleaded guilty in February to filing false paperwork accounting for $29,950 that had been embezzled from the Parent Workshop, could have received up to five years in prison, but instead Justice Norman St. George gave her five years’ probation.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had recommended the reduced sentence in light of Huntley’s cooperation with federal prosecutors in a similar scam.

While in the Senate, Huntley earmarked legislative member items — a program that has been cut from Albany due to widespread misuse — to the Parent Workshop, which was supposed to help parents get more involved in their children’s education. Member items, or earmarks, are funds distributed to lawmakers to be distributed to nonprofits in their districts.

Instead, the money went to line the pockets of the nonprofit’s treasurer and president, who also received five years’ probation for their roles in the embezzlement.

Huntley’s niece, Lynn Smith, and a former aide, Patricia Savage, each received probation and agreed to pay restitution after pleading guilty to pocketing the state funds. They both also faced up to five years in prison.

David Gantt, who pleaded guilty to falsifying records claiming he had worked as a consultant for the nonprofit, was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge.

In January, Huntley pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges for covering up $87,700 in state Education Department funds she embezzled from a second nonprofit, the Parent Information Network.

Huntley, who sat on southeast Queens’ District 28 school board before being elected to the Senate in 2007 and serving on the Senate Education Committee, admitted she repeatedly filed false documents to make it appear as though the funds were legitimately used to help parents navigate the city’s school system.

She admitted she pocketed the cash and used it on lavish shopping sprees and to pay off her credit card.

She faces up to two years in prison at her sentencing in Brooklyn federal court, which was scheduled for this week.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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