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Queens Chronicle

Cemetery execs stole money: AG

All Faiths in MidVille fell into disrepair while funds were taken, suit says

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 10:30 am

State Attorney General Letitia James is suing Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery, saying former executives and board members allegedly stole large amounts of money.

The lawsuit says Daniel Austin Sr., the cemetery’s chief executive for nearly three decades, was paid $900,000 as a “retirement” award in 2014 but continued to work and make a salary. He was fired in March for not repaying the retirement award.

“The Defendants each violated their fiduciary duties of loyalty and care by: paying themselves millions of dollars in salaries, unauthorized retirement benefits, and director’s fees without any meaningful consideration of cost or controls,” reports said the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit alleges.

It also says his son allegedly embezzled $63,000 by giving himself unapproved bonuses for years. He resigned after the alleged theft was discovered.

Five years ago, PIX 11 reported on the less than ideal conditions of the cemetery, including tombstones lying facedown, cracked and sinking, as well as potholed roads and crumbling stairs.

Among those buried in the Middle Village necropolis are President Trump’s parents, grandparents and brother.

“This is totally shocking and disappointing, if true,” said Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) in an email. “I suspected there was some change happening when the cemetery fell into disrepair, but I never imagined something like this. They used to work with the community and I know my neighbors — especially those who have loved ones buried here — are very saddened by this.” A source said Holden is sending a letter to the state Cemeteries Division to inquire about the care of All Faiths going forward.

Other claims in the court documents are that an accountant and lawyer for the board were paid unchecked salaries and fees of over $1 million from 2013 through 2018.

In 2015, a board members illegally took out a $400,000 loan for his daughters. Another board member took out a $500,000 loan for his brother in 2017, according to the suit.

The suit looks to recoup the money, seek restitution and for remaining board members to be fired.

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