New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging Renee Kanas, 63, a resident of Tamarac, Florida, with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a Class C felony. Kanas is charged in Albany County Court with stealing over $148,000 in pension payments from the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System paid to her father, Jacob Yudenfreund, a New York State pensioner who died in March 2010.
"As our investigation revealed, Renee Kanas cruised the Caribbean using her deceased father's stolen pension,” State Comptroller DiNapoli said. “We will continue to expose these scams and protect the retirement system. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for following up on this case."
"Stealing from New York’s pension system hurts hardworking taxpayers across the state, but lining one’s own pockets with a deceased parent’s pension is truly appalling,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Through our Operation Integrity partnership, Comptroller DiNapoli and I will keep fighting to ensure New York taxpayer dollars are protected, and to punish those who steal from our state’s pension fund to the fullest extent."
According to the indictment and statements made by the prosecutor at arraignment, Kanas’ father was a New York State pensioner who elected to receive reduced monthly benefits so his wife, Doris Yudenfreund, would continue to receive benefits after his death. Mrs. Yudenfreund, however, predeceased Mr. Yudenfreund. As such, upon Mr. Yudenfreund’s passing in March 2010, his pension benefits ceased.
According to the Comptroller and Attorney General, Kanas failed to notify the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System of her father’s death. Instead, from March 2010 until January 2015, pension benefits totaling over $148,000 were deposited into a bank account jointly held by Mr. Yudenfreund and Kanas. Kanas allegedly accessed these funds after her father’s death and liquidated all but $1,207.55 in pension benefits over that time period. Kanas spent the monies, among other things, on two cruises.
Kanas was arrested by City of Tamarac and Broward County Sherriff’s in Florida, and brought to Albany County to face these charges. Kanas was arraigned today on the indictment by Honorable Thomas A. Breslin in Albany Supreme Court, and entered a plea of not guilty. The defendant was remanded in lieu of posing bail; the next court date is scheduled for June 28, 2016. If convicted, Kanas faces up to fifteen years in state prison.
The investigation was conducted by the New York State Comptroller’s Division of Investigations and the Attorney General. This case is the latest joint investigation under the Operation Integrity partnership of the Attorney General and Comptroller, which to date has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $6 million in restitution.
The charges are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Comptroller DiNapoli and Attorney General Schneiderman thank the City of Tamarac Road Patrol and Broward County Sheriff’s in Florida for their assistance.
The Comptroller’s investigation was conducted by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations working with the New York State and Local Retirement System.
The Attorney General’s investigation was conducted by Investigator Mark Spencer, Inv. Casey Quinlan and Deputy Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Philip V. Apruzzese of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary T. Fishman and Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.
Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at [email protected], or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.