A probe by the city’s Department of Investigation has uncovered a number of alleged fraudulent and irregular financial transactions involving two executives at the South Ozone Park-based United Hindu Cultural Council of USA North America Inc. and a food vendor to the UHCC, the DOI and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday.
The DOI’s findings include an alleged scheme involving fraudulent invoices submitted by the UHCC to the City Department for the Aging for nonexistent lunches supposedly served to seniors at the group’s South Ozone Park center.
According to the report, the UHCC contracted with DFTA between July 1999 and September 2011 to provide meals, cultural activities and counseling services to seniors at the center at 118-09 Sutter Ave. in South Ozone Park. The city stopped funding the UHCC in 2011.
Three individuals have been indicted on charges of stealing more than $50,000 from the city through that scheme and will be prosecuted by Schneiderman's office. They are Chan Jamoonda, 66, of Richmond Hill, founder of the UHCC and its executive director from 2002 to 2005; Veda Jamoona, 28, of Manhattan, Chan’s daughter and UHCC executive director from January 2006 until December 2008 — who most recently worked on the staff of Comptroller John Liu — and Steven Rajukumar, 57, owner of Sonny’s Roti Shop in Ozone Park, the food vendor allegedly involved in the scheme. The three are being charged with grand larceny in the second degree and conspiracy in the fourth degree. Additionally, Chan Jamoona and Rajukumar are also charged with varying counts of falsyfing business records in the first degree while the Jamoonas are charged with varying counts of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.
The indictment alleges that between 2004 and 2010, Chan Jamoona ordered an employee of UHCC to make false entries on the group’s sign-in served lunch, and offered to create false invoices for the roti shop resulting in higher payments to the vendor. Rajukumar agreed to share these extra payments with Chan Jamoona. In the meantime, Veda Jamoona allegedly also caused false invoices to be filed with DFTA regarding the number of meals provided by the roti shop,
“Nonprofit executives who fabricate expenses to pocket unearned City funds will be shown the door and referred for criminal prosecution,” DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said. “DOI will continue to focus on instances of fraud in this sector and work with the state attorney general and our colleagues in city government and law enforcement to protect taxpayer-supported programs from abuse.”
The DOI’s investigation allegedly found, in addition to the charged fraudulent invoice scheme involving lunches:
•A number of financial irregularities which were brought to the attention of city contracting officials and Schneiderman’s office including that the UHCC allegedly paid a salary of more than $13,000 to the younger Jamoona for more than four months when she was not working, which was billed to DFTA;
• for several years, Chan Jamoona allegedly worked simultaneously at the UHCC, conducting various transactions with DFTA on the group’s behalf, and as an employee of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, without obtaining permission from the city's Conflicts of Interest Board;
• in 2007, Chan Jamoona’s husband acquired the South Ozone Park building in which the UHCC operated, allegedly in contrary to it’s statement in its 2009 filing with the City that no principal owner or officer or member of his or her immediate family had an ownership interest in any real property used by the the group;
• that the UHCC allegedly paid more than $136,000 in purported food service charges to Rajukumar individually, rather than to his business, then-called Singh's Roti Shop, a fact uncovered and documented by DFTA in 2007, and continued to pay Rajukumar individually through June 2009, contrary to DFTA's express direction;
• and Rajukumar and his wife allegedly obtained more than $49,000 in Medicaid benefits while filing applications in which they failed to report assets and income, including his ownership of and true income from the roti shop.
Fraud at taxpayer-funded nonprofits in Queens and elsewhere in the city has gotten increased attention of late, with investigations into former state Sen. Shirley Huntley of Jamaica and Pedro Espada of the Bronx as well as former Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin of Flushing and the late Estelle Cooper, a former assistant parks commissioner, who was accused of swindling money from a nonprofit she set up aimed at cleaning Flushing Meadows Corona Park.