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August 27,2012

A.G. Schneiderman And Comptroller Dinapoli Announce Criminal Indictment Of Senator Huntley For Covering Up Member Item Scam

Ongoing Probe Exposes Criminal Conspiracy By Senator Shirley Huntley And Associates To Thwart Investigation Of Sham Charity
$30K In Taxpayer-Funded Services Never Performed; Sen. Huntley Devised Fake Letter To Falsely Show That They Were

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced a superseding indictment against New York State Senator Shirley Huntley for falsifying business records, conspiracy and tampering with their joint investigation of a scheme to steal taxpayer dollars using a sham not-for-profit that did not provide services to the public. In addition to Senator Huntley, the new indictment charges a close aide and her niece with stealing funds from a member item sponsored by the Senator, and a third individual with aiding the cover-up.

As part of their Joint Task Force on Public Integrity, the Offices of the Attorney General and Comptroller investigated Parent Workshop, Inc., a not-for-profit founded by Senator Huntley, which funneled public money to the Senator's aide, Patricia D. Savage, and to the senator's niece, Lynn H. Smith. According to the indictment, Savage and Smith submitted fraudulent documents to the State of New York to obtain public money from a legislative member item Senator Huntley sponsored. Instead of providing the promised programs, Savage and Smith pocketed approximately $29,950.

The investigation revealed that, after learning of the probe, Senator Huntley personally wrote a template for a false, backdated letter designed to fool investigators into believing that the Parent Workshop had conducted workshops that never took place. Parent Workshop then submitted this letter to the Attorney General's Office in response to a subpoena.

Senator Huntley is charged with the felonies of Tampering with Physical Evidence and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree, a misdemeanor. Each felony carries a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison. Under the New York State Public Officers Law, conviction of a felony would result in Huntley's automatic removal from office.

"Falsifying documents, conspiracy and deliberately tampering with an open investigation are serious crimes. The individuals who schemed to profit at the taxpayers' expense and cover it up will be held accountable," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "My office's partnership with the Comptroller is designed to combat corruption in the public sector, and we will continue to work tirelessly to protect every penny of taxpayer money." 

"Public service is a privilege and a trust that should never be violated,"Comptroller DiNapoli said. "I will continue to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman to root out public corruption and safeguard the use of public funds."

The indictment charges Savage, president of Parent Workshop and Senator Huntley's aide, and Smith, the treasurer of Parent Workshop and Senator Huntley's niece, of engaging in a fraudulent scheme to steal member item funds. The defendants falsely claimed that Parent Workshop would use member item funds secured by Senator Huntley to hold workshops for and conduct outreach to parents on the workings of the New York City public school system.

Instead, the new indictment charges that Savage and Smith never intended to hold any such events and that they falsely asserted in multiple submissions to the New York State Department of State that, from April 2008 through March 2009, the Parent Workshop had held workshops and conducted outreach, when no such workshops were ever held and no such outreach was ever conducted. Based on these submissions, the Department of State paid Parent Workshop $29,950 " the sum the two defendants are charged with stealing. Savage and Smith are each charged with multiple felony counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. The maximum sentence for one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree is 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

The indictment also charges that Senator Huntley, Savage and defendant David R. Gantt conspired to create and submit false evidence, in response to a subpoena issued to Parent Workshop by the Attorney General's Office. One piece of that false evidence was a handwritten letter drafted by Senator Huntley that served as a template for a falsified, backdated letter from the Southern Queens Park Association (SQPA), a separate not-for-profit corporation located in Queens. The SQPA letter was falsified to make it appear as if Parent Workshop had conducted workshops when, in fact, it did not.

The superseding indictment also charges that defendant David R. Gantt falsified records to claim that he was paid in cash for conducting workshops as a consultant. The indictment further charges that he, in fact, never conducted any workshops. Gantt is charged with four counts of Tampering with Physical Evidence, four counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and one count of Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree.

Since 1999, the New York State Legislature has distributed more than $900 million through legislative member items to more than 20,000 not-for-profit entities.

Prosecuting the case are Public Integrity Bureau Senior Counsel Emily Bradford, Public Integrity Bureau Assistant Attorney General Jerrold Steigman, and Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Assistant Attorney General Thomas Schellhammer. The investigation was supervised by Public Integrity Bureau Deputy Chief Stacy Aronowitz and Chief William E. Schaeffer, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Nancy Hoppock.

The Comptroller's audit and investigation were conducted by the Investigations Unit and the Bureau of State Expenditures.

The charges are merely accusations, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Anyone with additional information on this matter or any other public corruption is encouraged to contact the Attorney General's Office toll-free at 1-800-996-4630or the Comptroller's Office by dialing the toll-free fraud hotline at 1-888-672-4555; filing a complaint online atinvestigations@osc.state.ny.us; or mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller Investigations Unit, 110 State Street, 14th Floor, Albany, NY 12236.

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