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Bookkeeper for Brooklyn Public Administrator Allegedly Steals $2.6 Million from the Estates of the Dead

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and women) has once again stuck a blow against The Fantom’s ranks. According to a press release, Richard Paul, the bookkeeper for the Kings County Public Administrator’s Office, stole “more than $2.6 million from the estates of individuals who died without a will by manipulating the agency’s check writing system.” In addition to Paul, DA Vance obtained an indictment from a New York County Grand Jury charging Taryn Miller, Ransel Sangster and George Bethea for their involvement in this alleged theft and fraud scheme. The arrest charges for Paul, Miller, Sangster and Bethea are all tied to Grand Larceny.

As a bookkeeper in the Public Administrators Office, it is believed that Paul “cooked the books” of an agency that has a responsibility to oversee the estates of those who died intestate. One dies intestate when one dies without a will. In cases such as these where there is no family to claim the estate of the deceased, the Public Administrator maintains the deceased’s estate. All of the money is ultimately transferred to the New York City Department of Finance. It is alleged by prosecutors that Paul, whose responsibility it was to make the transfers to the New York City Department of Finance, transferred money to confidants and friends from August 2008 to November 2011.

DA Vance asserts that Miller was Paul’s cohort by not just receiving some of the re-routed monies, but by facilitating the scheme. Sangster is believed to have received a forged Public Administrator’s check valued at almost $400,000. Prosecutors further contend that Sangster also received a check from Paul in the amount of $200,000. Bethea, who is Miller’s husband, had his hand in the cookie jar as well if what prosecutors claim is true. It is alleged that Bethea received $150,000 as part of this fraud as well.

Paul and Miller both face the most serious New York theft and larceny crime on the books. Charged with New York Penal Law 155.42, Grand Larceny in the First Degree, these defendants face a minimum of one to three years in prison if they are convicted of a crime. Even worse, a judge can sentence each one of them up to eight and one third to twenty-five years in state prison. Although far from in the clear, Bethea and Sangster face a slightly less serious crime (it is a relative thing, of course). These two defendants are charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, New York Penal Law 155.40. As such, the defendants do not face a minimum mandatory sentence, but as great as five to fifteen years in state prison.

The arrests and indictments of Paul, Bethea, Sangster and Miller should send a notice to anyone who might consider white collar criminal activity in Manhattan. Following in Robert Morgenthau’s footsteps, DA Vance is using the “long arm” of the law to combat white collar crime even if those who are alleged to have perpetrated the offense conduct their activities outside of Manhattan. As long as there is a nexus to New York County and a fraud is perpetrated, DA Vance is keeping his eyes wide open.

Can these defendants explain their conduct? Is there an answer to why the checks landed in their respective accounts? Is the indictment flawed in any way? Is the best defense one of mitigation as opposed to one based in challenging the evidence or believed facts? While I am not immersed in this case and have no information beyond the press release, I am confident these defendants and their respective attorneys are grappling with some of the same questions and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

To educate yourself about any New York Grand Larceny crime or the theft laws and statutes in found in the New York Penal Law, please follow the highlighted links above or below. Established by two former Manhattan prosecutors, the New York criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC represent clients accused of all white collar crimes throughout New York City and the surrounding areas.

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