Skip to comments.Audit Describes 8 Years of Theft at L.I. Schools (plundered by admin thieves)
Posted on 03/03/2005 12:32:11 AM PST by Liz
For eight years, the top officials of an affluent Long Island school district systematically plundered taxpayer funds, illegally diverting at least $11.2 million to themselves, relatives and cronies for an array of goods and services, from a 65-cent bagel to a $1,812-a-night hotel suite to a mortgage on a luxury home in Florida, a new state audit says.
The scandal, in Roslyn, N.Y., is the most pervasive such school fraud in the country, say officials from the National School Boards Association. The year-old case has already had repercussions in districts throughout New York State, where school officials and bookkeepers say they are paying closer attention to budgets and accounts, and state auditors have stepped up their scrutiny.
The report, issued yesterday by the state comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, examines the district's records from 1996 to 2004, and it reveals far deeper and wider corruption than previously disclosed. It found losses of $3 million more than was estimated last spring, when the first allegations became public. It also documents and analyzes unauthorized spending and account manipulation well beyond what school officials and the district attorney had previously detailed.
Besides using district funds to cover $1.1 million in cash withdrawals on personal credit cards, district officials shopped extravagantly at taxpayers' expense, the records show. The purchases included $18,605 for artwork from Galerie Lassen on Maui in Hawaii, $14,033 for pet supplies, $19.95 for vitamins, $81,637 to repay a college loan, $3.05 for a latte and $4,045 to a company for such merchandise as a manicure and pedicure kit, a Sony shower radio and an Aquabot Ultra Pool Cleaner with remote control.
The losses went undetected for so long, officials have speculated, because of Roslyn residents' pride in the district's stellar academic achievements. The district, on Long Island's North Shore, has 3,300 students and a 95 percent graduation rate, and a healthy share of its graduates go off to Ivy League colleges every year. The superintendent at the time, Frank A. Tassone, also had impressed and charmed the school board and parents.
Criminal investigations have already led to grand larceny indictments of Dr. Tassone and the district's former business manager and a former clerk, all of whom have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said they were reviewing the latest findings and considering further charges.
Dr. Tassone's lawyer, Ed Jenks, said he had not seen the audit but argued that many expenses were legitimate. "He was allowed one international trip a year," he said.
"It doesn't say in the contract whether he can take the Concorde or swim across the Atlantic."
The audit also said there were 26 additional beneficiaries, and it hinted that sharing in the money might have tempered some district employees' enthusiasm for blowing the whistle. The auditors cautioned, however, that at least some of the beneficiaries might have been innocent recipients of gifts.
Those gifts were at the expense of taxpayers; the property tax for homeowners in Roslyn averages $9,700 a year. In four years, the district's tax levy rose by half, from $46 million in 2000 to $69 million in 2004.
"Taxpayers are furious, and they have a right to be furious," Mr. Hevesi said at a news conference in Garden City, N.Y., hours before making an unusual presentation of the audit to residents at the high school last night.
"We're going to clean this up," he said. "We're going to put the systems in to make sure this never happens again."
One indignant parent who turned out for Mr. Hevesi's briefing said she wanted everyone involved to be punished.
"The degree of the embezzlement is so massive, the scope and magnitude of this is horrific," said the parent, Jeannette Elsner, one of about 200 residents at the 7:30 p.m. meeting. "It sickens me."
The audit concluded that Dr. Tassone took a total of $2.4 million, and his former assistant superintendent for business, Pamela Gluckin, was responsible for $4.6 million in unauthorized spending. Ms. Gluckin's lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.
Continued here: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/03/nyregion/03roslyn.html?8br
The academic fix was in and was an integral part of the scheme to plunder the school's assets. Had the academics been problematic, parents would have demanded more accountability from Tassone and Gluckin ---chief among the 26-or so individuals who stole the school blind.
Clearly, lulling parents into believing all was A-OK so that the con game could continue included presenting what appeared to be high academic achivements, impressive SAT's, and getting kids into Ivy League schools.
Parent must demand to know how and when the SAT's were fixed, how scores were manipulated and if computer crimes were employed to alter test scores.
The depths of the Roslyn crime spree may have uncovered massive theft, but parents are in for sticker shock when they find the con game included faked test scores and inflated academic achievements, all paid for with their taxes.
Not out of place considereing the depths of the thieves depravity. Their arrogance knew no bounds---they got to the point where they were pocketing millions with ease. So why pay for anything themselves---even a latte---since school officals were so stupid?
Formula for Fleecing a School District? Spreading Cash Around, Audit Says
By MICHELLE O'DONNELL Published: March 3, 2005 New York Times
The formula for stealing $11.2 million from the Roslyn school district was simple: by compromising the district's accounting controls and giving bonuses to almost everyone who had oversight of the spending, two top officials were able to quietly embezzle the funds over eight years without triggering any alarms, according to a searing audit.
The audit of the district was released yesterday by State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi. According to it, the scheme involved the former superintendent, Frank A. Tassone; the former business manager, Pamela Gluckin; and an accounting clerk, Debra Rigano, who is a niece of Ms. Gluckin. They have all been accused of grand larceny. Other employees who received the largess, which included unauthorized extra pay, might have been innocent recipients, Mr. Hevesi cautioned, but the criminal investigation is continuing.
More than half the money was embezzled in a scheme in which Dr. Tassone and Ms. Gluckin and nine of their family members and friends charged $5.9 million for personal items and cash advances on 74 personal credit cards, investigators said. Then Ms. Gluckin, who resigned in 2002, and Dr. Tassone, who resigned last June, used district checks to pay those bills, Mr. Hevesi said.
The audit found that Dr. Tassone and Ms. Gluckin would obtain cash advances on their credit cards at A.T.M.'s. Ms. Gluckin, whose salary and benefits in her final year were $87,250, charged $559,176 in cash advances to the district over six years. Dr. Tassone, who received a salary of $230,000, charged $541,596 to the district in cash advances.
Once the cash advances and the credit card charges - among them, for Tiffany and Tourneau jewelry, Coach leather acessories, carpet and furniture for him; and clothes from Nordstrom and Sears, electronic equipment, pet supplies and art and furniture for her - were executed, those amounts were submitted to the district, the audit said.
To pay those bills, district checks were sent directly to the card issuers. The audit found that the district's financial software could be easily manipulated and had fraud controls that had never been activated. Using a legitimate vendor account number, the name of the check's recipient would be changed from a vendor of school supplies to the creditors. After the check was issued, the name of the payee would be changed back in the computer records to the legitimate vendor to conceal the fraudulent payment, according to the audit.
For example, personal American Express payments totaling $1.49 million were paid under the vendor number of Sargent-Welch, the company that provided the district with laboratory supplies. Payments to Citibank totaling $896,730 were made under the vendor number of the Nassau County Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which provides special education programs.
Mr. Hevesi said that vulnerabilities in the district's financial software, Finance Manager, which is in use in 251 school districts in the state, allowed the officials to disguise their thefts as legitimate spending.
In a separate audit last month, he faulted the district's outside accounting firm, Miller, Lilly & Pearce, for "appallingly inadequate" audits.
When a budget category came close to its limit, the audit said, school officials were able to shift funds among accounts. Dr. Tassone had been granted unlimited authority by the school board to make those transfers even though state education regulations required the board to set limits on the amounts that can be transferred without board approval, according to the audit.
No check warrants - lists of payments awaiting approval by the district's internal claims auditor - were maintained. In fact, the audit found, the claims were barely reviewed by that auditor. The extent of the review by the internal auditor, an acquaintance of Dr. Tassone who received $6,200 in unexplained payments from the district, consisted of thumbing through and initialing the vouchers, the audit said.
The district's treasurer, who is the custodian of all district funds, rarely attended board meetings and infrequently reported on the budget, the audit said. Although state law requires that a district's checks are to be signed by the treasurer, in Roslyn, the checks were signed by Dr. Tassone's secretary.
Dr. Tassone and Ms. Gluckin consolidated their control over the district's finances by installing clerks responsible for monitoring both accounts payable and accounts receivable. Standard accounting practice is to separate those duties to prevent fraud, according to the audit.
Where did it say the SAT scores were fixed?
Are the MA libs moving down to NY or vice versus? LOL
Just do a google news search.
It's being discussed in Roslyn other sources report....what you're reading here is obviously my educated take on it.
From what little I know of the whole education thing -- well-off parents can spend between $10,000 and $20,000 on "SAT coaches" and classes like Kaplan. Combine this prep with inflated grades and I could get a ham sandwich into Princeton.
SATs were supposed to level the playing field, but have accomplished the exact opposite. Parents willing and able to foot the bill regularly have kids scoring higher than those unable to afford the expense.
OMG, corpses turned up there? Well, maybe they didn't dig deep enough in Roslyn (/sarc)?
The most you can get out of SAT prep is +60-100 combined.
I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, but the Roslyn scores are real enough, well explained by the ethnicity of the test takers.
Prediction: In about thirty seconds (figuratively speaking) when the community realizes that SAT scores and a "quality of school system" etc. are tied to the value of their homes, there will be a scramble to find a giant broom to sweep this mess away under a enormous rug.
Betcha the criminals factored this in when they began their crime spree.
I'm not talking about Kaplan prep, which tops out at about $5,000. There is also whole mini industry of independent SAT coaches who charge significantly more and are said to get significantly better results. And, given the likely educational level of the parents, etc. that is a foot up, too.
Figure it's like this -- you're an administrator in a rich school district. You've got high school kids driving BMWs and Benz to school. Maybe you live in the town and maybe you don't, but you sure want to live like you live in the town. And the residents can afford it. So you start charging a little to the town, then you start charging more. Pretty soon you're charging a lot and nobody seems to notice.
These people weren't thieves, they were morons with credit cards.
"It doesn't say in the contract whether he can take the Concorde or swim across the Atlantic."
Tassone would have fit right in at the United Way or as head of the International Olympic Committee.
Who is the most stupid, one might ask?
The perps might be morons, but what stands out is that supposedly these affluent, successful people residing in upscale Roslyn did not have the smarts to know they were being ripped off by a bunch of morons.
Wht do you think the top SAT scores in the nation are in New Hampshire, Iowa, Montana, the Dakotas, Washington, and Oregon?
It's not the healthy living.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.