FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 16, 2015
Former Executive Director Indicted For Stealing $85,000 From North Flatbush Business Improvement District
Allegedly Used Funds to Buy Beyonce Tickets, Jewelry, Clothing and Shoes;
Additionally Charged With Collecting Unemployment While Working at BID
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, together with New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters, today announced an indictment charging the former executive director of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District with siphoning off approximately $85,000 from the group’s budget to pay for personal expenses, such as food, clothing and entertainment. She also is alleged to have collected unemployment insurance benefits when in fact she was employed by the BID and not eligible to collect.
District Attorney Thompson said, “The 150 small business owners who joined the North Flatbush BID paid into it with the expectation that those funds would be used to promote their businesses. Instead, the defendant allegedly used the BID’s accounts as her own personal piggy bank, spending non-stop on everything from airline tickets to chocolates. She will now be held accountable. ”
Commissioner Peters said, “This individual is accused of stealing public funds from neighborhood businesses for personal gain. This type of charged conduct sabotages an entire community. DOI was pleased to work with the Brooklyn District Attorney on this important investigation. ”
The District Attorney said that the defendant, Sharon Davidson, 63, formerly of 318 Flatbush Avenue and currently residing in Riverhead, in Suffolk County, was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which she is charged with one count each of second- and third-degree grand larceny, three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, one count of first-degree scheme to defraud, and 17 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. He released her without bail and ordered the defendant to return to court on May 13, 2015.
The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, between February 2, 2010 and December 16, 2013, the defendant engaged in a scheme to steal approximately $90,000, including about $85,000 from the North Flatbush BID and about $5,000 in unemployment insurance benefits.
The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, Davidson was employed by the North Flatbush BID from June 2009 to January 2014. As executive director she was entrusted with access to all of the BID’s bank accounts, debit cards and checks, and was responsible for maintaining its financial books and records and paying expenses associated with the BID’s activities, such as economic development, street maintenance, and neighborhood promotion and enhancement programs to benefit its approximately 150 retail members.
It is alleged that between February 2, 2010 and December 16, 2013, Davidson repeatedly made unauthorized withdrawals from the BID’s bank accounts, including withdrawing cash from automated teller machines, deposited checks intended for the BID into her personal bank accounts, wrote checks to herself out of the BID’s accounts, and used BID debit cards to make hundreds of unauthorized purchases. Among the charges to the BID’s debit card were: $3,000 at Fresh Direct, $4,000 at Talbots, $600 for Beyonce concert tickets, $600 at Weight Watchers, $400 on manicures and pedicures, $13,000 paid through Paypal for items such as shoes, clothing, jewelry and makeup, and numerous purchases from restaurants. As a result, the defendant allegedly stole $85,691.36.
It is additionally charged that the defendant, whose salary was $30,000 a year and who was in charge of maintaining the BID’s third-party payroll service to issue her paychecks, caused the payroll service to end on October 14, 2011. Then, a few weeks later, on November 2, 2011, she allegedly applied to the New York State Department of Labor for unemployment insurance benefits. Davidson subsequently received benefits for nearly four months, during which time she was still gainfully employed by the BID. Davidson thus allegedly received $5,190 in unemployment benefits to which she was not entitled.
The District Attorney said that the alleged theft was discovered during an audit conducted by New York City’s Department of Small Business Services, which oversees the City’s BIDs and which subsequently alerted the New York City Department of Investigation.
The case was investigated by Chief Forensic Auditor Ivette Morales and Special Investigator Nicole Clyne, under the supervision of Inspector General Andrew Sein and Associate Commissioner William Jorgenson of the New York City Department of Investigation.
The District Attorney thanked the New York State Department of Labor and the New York City Department of Small Business Services for their assistance in the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Sabrina Thanse and Meredith Weill, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Emily Bradford, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.