Ex-Sr. Center Directors Busted For Fraud
A mother and daughter who formerly ran a South Ozone Park senior center were arrested on Monday, Feb. 25, for allegedly defrauding the city out of $50,000 in funds which were intended for use at the center’s lunch program, law enforcement sources said.
Chan Jamoona, 66, of Richmond Hill and her daughter, Veda Jamoona, 28, of Washington Heights were collared following an investigation conducted jointly by the Attorney General’s office and the city Department of Investigation (DOI) for their alleged roles in the scheme.
Authorities said the scam took place over a three-year period while both suspects served as executive directors of the United Hindu Cultural Council of USA North America Inc. (UHCC), located at 118-09 Sutter Ave. near Lefferts Boulevard.
Reportedly, the Jamoonas directed UHCC employees to inflate bills for food purchased from a neighborhood supplier-Sonny’s Roti Shop on Liberty Avenue-sent to the Department for the Aging (DFTA) for reimbursement. The owner of the roti shop-identified as Steven Rajkumar, 57, of Queens- was also arrested on Monday for allegedly receiving payment for his cooperation in the scheme and kicking back some of the proceeds to Chan Jamoona.
All three individuals were arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on Monday on the charges of fourth-degree conspiracy and second-degree grand larceny; they were also variously booked on additional charges of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing.
If convicted on the top charge of grand larceny, each suspect faces a maximum term of between five and 15 years behind bars.
“By stealing from the senior center lunch program, the defendants put personal greed ahead of the basic needs of New York seniors,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in announcing the charges with Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn on Monday.
“Through fake invoices and phantom clients, these defendants systematically chiseled the city’s taxpayers and shortchanged the seniors they were supposed to serve, according to the indictment,” Hearn added. “Their charged phony billing scheme was undone by meticulous fiscal analysis and old-fashioned surveillance.”
Reportedly, the DOI and Attorney General’s office launched their investigation upon the referral by the city DFTA and the state Office for the Aging.
Chan Jamoona ran the UHCC center between 2002 and 2005, and Veda Jamoona succeeded her between 2006 and 2008.
In carrying out the scam, law enforcement sources said, the Jamoonas directed employees to not only submit inflated food bills but also phony supporting documents to the DFTA, including fake signatures on sign-in sheets.
The DOI also found in its probe that Veda Jamoona allegedly received a $13,000 salary from the center for more than four months while she was not employed at the location; that salary was ultimately billed to the DFTA. Chan Jamoona is also accused of violating regulations of the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board for failing to request permission to work at the UHCC while simultaneously employed by the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation.
Investigators also determined that, despite a claim on city forms submitted in 2009 that the UHCC was not the principal owner of its South Ozone Park facility, Chan Jamoona’s husband had purchased the building two years earlier.
Finally, Rajkumar was reportedly found to have received $49,000 in Medicaid benefits fraudulently, as he allegedly failed to disclose his actual assets and income.
Along with executing the arrests of the suspects on Monday, investigators additionally carried out courtauthorized searches at the Sutter Avenue facility to obtain computers and documents used in the scheme.
Assistant Attorney General Jihee G. Suh is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Public Integrity Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronwitz, Chief William E. Schaeffer and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.