“Let him rot in jail!”
That’s the word from State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. after a former executive at two charities founded and heavily funded by the state legislator faced new charges he embezzeled more than a half million dollars from them.
Diaz charged the FBI let the executive get away with it for several years after first confessing to agents that he stole. Instead, Diaz charged they sent him back, hoping to gather criminal evidence against him.
Clement Gardner, the former fiscal officer at Christian Community in Action Inc. and Christian Community Benevolent Association, was named this week in a superceding indictment charging he ripped the two nonprofits off for $560,000 “in charitable assets.”
Gardner, 65, was charged with two counts of grand larceny and six counts of falsifying business records, all felonies.
He was first arrested March 13 and initially charged with stealing at least $75,000 from the Christian Community Benevolent Association.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said at the time that Gardner’s criminal scheme “turned a charity into a personal piggy bank,” making unauthorized payments to himself over a three-year period ending in May 2007. He said Gardner then cashed the checks or deposited them to his personal account.
The money, the attorney general said, was supposed to go toward educational and recreational opportunities for students and seniors. Instead, Gardner wrote check with false memo lines to himself to avoid detection.
But Diaz charged Gardner first admitted to the FBI in 1997 that he was stealing money from the charity, and instead of arrest, was sent back to gather possible criminal evidence against Diaz – only to continue his thieving.
“I trusted him,” Diaz said of Gardner, who has been held without bail since his original arrest March 13.
“He is rotting in jail, and he should get life,” said the senator.
The case is being prosecuted by Schneiderman’s office, based on a probe by the city Department of Investigation and city Human Resources Commisison.
“The public funds that went to these nonprofits were to better the Bronx community they serve, not to profit their fiscal officer, as charged in the indictment,” said DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.
She said DOI investigators analyzed fiscal records and worked with the state Attorney General “to find hundreds of thousands of dollars embezzled during this scheme.”
Diaz, a Pentacostal minister, was executive director of the charities until November, 2002 when he won a seat in the state Senate.
Since rising to state senator representing the local Soundview communityh, Diaz has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the two charitable groups, which he used to then distribute fundiong to other community nonprofits, civic organizations and other local community groups.
Diaz said after the original arrest that he was “shocked” and “would never expect it from the guy.”
Prosecutors said at the time that Diaz himself was not accused of any wrongdoing.