By Matthew Monks
James Ciccone, 41, admitted in Queens Supreme Court last Thursday to cashing dozens of phony checks from the Sports and Arts School Foundation, which has summer classes and after-school athletics for New York City Public School students, Brown said. Ciccone abused his position as program director from July 2002 to March 2004 to cash scores of bogus checks in the name of phantom and real employees, the district attorney said, and he used the stolen cash to buy cocaine. “The defendant has admitted that he embezzled over $69,000 from the Sports and Arts School Foundation while serving as its senior program director and improperly used the money for his own personal benefit,” the district attorney said in a statement. “He betrayed the trust of the children by turning the foundation's payroll into his own piggy bank.” Brown said the investigation started six months ago after the foundation fired Ciccone for poor job performance and discovered irregularities with its payroll records. Police uncovered an extensive paper trail of deceit.The Staten Island man cashed 10 phony checks, three of them made out to pretend employees, at check-cashing places in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. One of the cashiers was just a block away from the foundation at 24-16 Queens Plaza South. He cashed checks totaling more than $6,000 written to a man who only worked for three weeks at the foundation and he hired a partner who worked for two weeks at the non-profit but was paid a total of $11,000, Brown said. Ciccone pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny before Judge Pauline A. Mullings, who said she would sentence him to two to four years in prison at his next court appearance Feb. 9. Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.