A former consultant to the New York Department of Education stole more than $3 million from the state department over a six-year period, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The stiff penalties that the former consultant faces show just how important it is for those accused of fraud to seek out experienced legal counsel.
The New York Times wrote that the consultant allegedly stole $3.6 million from the education department in part to pay for the costs of new cars and real estate deals.
The timing of this incident is particularly bad, the Times reports, because the Education Department in 2012 plans to invest more than $500 million in upgrading Internet access at schools across the state of New York.
The money that the consultant allegedly stole came from the fund that the Education Department was using to pay for this ambitious Internet venture, the Wall Street Journal reported in a separate story.
According to the New York Times, the consultant, who was receiving an annual salary of $200,000, used a network of contractors and subcontractors to hide the money. Each of these contractors and subcontractors also benefited financially from the scheme.
The Department of Justice charged the consultant with one count of mail fraud and one count of theft. According to the federal complaint, the consultant purchased a Corvette, Porsche and other expensive cars. The consultant also allegedly built luxury homes on a piece of land he owned on Eastern Long Island in New York. If convicted, the consultant faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on the fraud charge and a maximum of 10 years for the theft charge. He also faces a maximum fine of $250,000, forfeiture and restitution of the stolen funds.
Earlier this year, federal authorities charged seven people in an $80 million scheme to steal from CityTime, an automated payroll system, the New York Times reported.
The jail time that this consultant could face shows how seriously agencies take fraud. If you face fraud charges, you, too, could be looking at decades in prison. That's why it's important to hire an experienced white collar attorney to protect your rights.