Whitestoner accused of theft

Whitestoner accused of theft
Joseph Denice, a registered sex offender who has been banned from volunteering at schools including St. Mel’s in Flushing, is facing charges of stealing $7,000 from St. Mel’s Church, according to the Queens district attorney.
By Connor Adams Sheets

The registered sex offender recently expelled as a volunteer at St. Mel’s School in Flushing was back behind bars this week for allegedly bilking St. Mel’s Church out of thousands of dollars, according to the Queens district attorney.

Joseph Denice, 24, of Whitestone was arrested Jan. 13, not long after he made headlines for working at area schools despite having been convicted of and jailed for sexual abuse in June 2010. He currently faces one charge of grand larceny, one charge of petit larceny and one charge of criminal possession of a forged document, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Queens DA.

Facebook also deleted Denice’s account after allegations arose that he had contacted a young St. Mel’s student through the social networking site, prompting the school to stop using him as a volunteer, and causing state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) to go to the company to ask that his page be taken down.

If Denice is found to have made such contact with a minor, it may be a violation of the five-year probation period he was under upon being released after serving six months in jail for performing “full-body scans” on a 12-year-old boy in 2009, during which he fondled and sexually assaulted the child.

He was arraigned Jan. 14 and was being held at Rikers Island Tuesday afternoon after being remanded in lieu of $15,000 bail, likely due to the possible violation of his parole, Avella said.

The new senator is working on comprehensive legislation to ensure other sex offenders do not slip through the cracks of the New York state justice system.

“We’re trying to get everybody now to focus on this guy. He unfortunately knows how to work the system and the system now needs to work together to put him away,” Avella said. “His lies and his actions know no bounds, apparently. They show how somebody like this can manipulate the system.”

Denice allegedly admitted to police that he stole checks he found in the church’s office in December 2010, wrote them out to himself and gave them to his mother to deposit into her account, calling them “pay checks,” the complaint said.

The account to which the checks were linked was owned by Campion Lally, a Franciscan monk who took it out in order to help Brother Lawrence Larmann, a priest at St. Mel’s, the court papers said. Lally received a phone call on about Jan. 5 from Capital One Bank informing him that the account had been overdrawn. A Bank of America representative later said five checks totaling $7,707.22 made out to Denice were deposited into a Bank of America checking account belonging to Denice and his mother Laura Denice, who Joseph allegedly said had no knowledge the checks were stolen, the complaint said.

Denice passed a background check requested by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn before beginning his work at schools, including St. Mel’s School in Flushing, St. Kevin’s Church in Bayside, St. Kevin’s School in Flushing and St. Luke’s in Whitestone, in about 2007, according to the diocese.

He was convicted of sexual abuse in June 2010 and served his six months, but the schools he volunteered at never found out about the arrest because he accepted a plea deal that allowed him to be registered as a Level 1 sex offender rather than the Level 2 the crimes usually carry, according to Avella. Level 1 sex offenders are not listed on the sex offender registry and the schools were never contacted about his conviction until parents raised the concerns that he contacted a St. Mel’s student via Facebook. The diocese then barred him from volunteering at its schools.

The diocese has said it is committed to doing everything within its power to stop future incidents of sexual abuse at its institutions.

Denice was scheduled to appear in court March 1.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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