New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that Renee Kanas, 63, a resident of Tamarac, Florida, pleaded guilty today to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a Class D felony, for 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.
“For years, Ms. Kanas spent thousands, living off a pension to which she was not entitled, even cruising the Caribbean,” State Comptroller DiNapoli said. “Thankfully, through my Operation Integrity partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman, she has pleaded guilty and must make repayment in the thousands.”
“When individuals steal from New York’s pension system, the pain is felt by taxpayers statewide, and the fact that these funds were stolen from a deceased parent makes this all the more reprehensible,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This conviction exemplifies the commitment Comptroller DiNapoli and I have to our Operation Integrity partnership, and to ensuring New York taxpayer dollars are protected, and those who steal from our state’s pension fund are brought to justice.”
Having failed to notify the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System of her father’s passing in March 2010, today Kanas admitted to having stolen the pension benefits intended for Mr. Yudenfreund for almost five years after his death, until January 2015. In total, Kanas stole in excess of $148,000 by accessing a joint bank account she held with her deceased father and liquidating all but $1,207.55.
Mr. Yudenfreund 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. However, due to Kanas’ failure to notify the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System of her father’s death, she continued to collect his pension benefits for approximately five years. During this time period, Kanas lived off of the stolen money and, among other things, took multiple cruises, including to the Caribbean.
In May 2016, Kanas was arrested on a warrant by City of Tamarac Road Patrol and Broward County Sherriff’s in Florida. Having been brought to Albany County to face these charges in June, Kanas today pleaded guilty before Honorable Thomas A. Breslin in Albany Supreme Court. As part of her plea, the defendant signed a confession of judgment in favor of New York State in the amount of $148,092.24. Kanas faces up to two to six years in state prison when she is sentenced.
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 Comptroller and Attorney General, which to date has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $11 million in restitution.
Comptroller DiNapoli and the Attorney General 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, Investigator Casey Quinlan and Deputy Chief Antoine Karam. Forensic accounting was performed by Associate Forensic Auditor Meaghan Scovello. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella. The Forensic Audit Section is led by Chief Auditor Edward J. Keegan.
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.