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Schools Bilked for $11 Million, Report Says

Officials in a New York district allegedly engaged in systematic misspending for decade.

March 03, 2005|From Newsday

MINEOLA, N.Y. — Top school officials and their friends and families siphoned off more than $11 million of Roslyn, N.Y., district money in an elaborate scheme involving far more people and far more extravagant spending than had been suspected, a state report has found.

Those implicated allegedly made mortgage payments on six different homes -- including two in Florida -- paid off personal loans, bankrolled vacations to the Caribbean, leased luxury cars and shelled out thousands of dollars at Tiffany, Nordstrom, Sharper Image, Coach and Rolex.

"It's a sordid story," New York state Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi said Wednesday as he released the report. "It's a story of breathtaking diversity in the schemes that were utilized by numbers of people to take public funds and use them for personal benefits."

The Roslyn school scandal unfolded last year after an anonymous letter tipped off authorities that officials had engaged in systematic misspending for a decade. So far, three former district officials -- Supt. Frank Tassone, Assistant Supt. for Business Pamela Gluckin and accounts payable clerk Deborah Rigano -- have been arrested and pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny.

Wednesday's findings, showing $3 million more misspent than originally thought, were turned over to the Nassau County district attorney's office and presented publicly at a news conference.

More arrests could follow, authorities said.

The 64-page report blames everyone from key administrators who misappropriated millions to school board members and business officials who weren't watching closely enough.

Roslyn seemed to be gripped by a "culture of corruption," said state Sen. Michael A.L. Balboni, who has sponsored legislation to strengthen oversight of school district finances.

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