Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr. is flexing his new found muscles. While his predecessor, Robert Morgenthau, routinely tackled schemes into the multiple millions of dollars, District Attorney Vance is just beginning find his feet and to make a name for himself. Far from a “big money” splash, the chief prosecutor of New York County has still sent a very loud message to would be fraudsters who violate the government and public trust…don’t do it.
According to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office press release, three individuals were arrested and indicted on multiple felonies for a $100,000 no show job as a custodian and a ticket payoff scheme.
It is alleged that Philip Portelli was employed as the Custodian Engineer at the Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School on 102nd Street in Manhattan. It is further alleged that Paul Azzopardi, a long time friend, along with Mr. Portelli scammed the public by adding Mr. Azzopardi to the payroll of Mr. Portelli as a custodian since 2006. Despite this, prosecutors claim that Mr. Azzopardi didn’t work at the school. Instead, Mr. Portelli is alleged to have created fake paperwork and time sheets, issued pay checks and defrauded the Department of Education in an amount exceeding $100,000.
In an unrelated case, Karen Frazier worked for the Department of Finance as a data entry clerk, Commercial Adjudications Unit in Manhattan. According to prosecutors, parking summonses issued to commercial vehicles are adjudicated in the unit. It is alleged that Ms. Frazier would charge motorists half the penalty or fee on a ticket in exchange for resolving the case. It is further alleged that Ms. Frazier would fill out paperwork on settlement sheets as if she were the motorist and signed their signatures as if they were at a hearing and agreed to a reduction in a fine. These papers were then submitted as if they were legitimate and Ms. Frazier drafted personal checks to cover the remaining balance while pocketing cash. Prosecutors claim that the checks routinely bounced and in total Ms. Frazier drafted more than 100 checks that did not clear in the amount of nearly $24,000. Compounding matters, prosecutors allege that Ms. Frazier entered the false information into the computers system as well.
Make no mistake, District Attorney Vance, Jr. is asserting that big or small, don’t betray the public trust or defraud the government. Regardless of the amount, you run a potential risk of felony prosecution. Mr. Portelli now faces charges of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, as well as Offering a False Instrument for Filing, punishable by four years in prison. His alleged partner, Mr. Azzopardi, faces fifteen years in prison as well for the crime of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.
Ms. Frazier faces numerous felonies including Bribe Receiving in the Third Degree, Forgery in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, and Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree. Each of these crimes are punishable by up to seven years in prison. Ms. Frazier is also charged with Receiving Reward for Official Misconduct in the Second Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, both punishable by a sentence of up to four years in prison. Additionally, Ms. Frazier faces numerous counts of Issuing a Bad Check, “merely” a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.
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