From the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Thomas P. DiNapoli
Contact: Mark Johnson, 518-474-4015
For release: Immediately, Sept. 4, 2014
DiNAPOLI: SPECIAL EDUCATION CONTRACTOR CONVICTED FOR $2 MILLION FRAUD
The former owner of a Queens-based special education provider, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges earlier this year following a joint investigation by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara, was sentenced today to 24 months incarceration and ordered to pay $2,151,318 in restitution and forfeit another $1,924,318.
“Cheon Park enriched himself and deprived children with physical, developmental and emotional disabilities of the help they need,” DiNapoli said. “His conviction today stands as a warning for those who attempt to cheat taxpayers and instead use the money for their personal benefit. I’d like to thank U.S. Attorney Bharara for prosecuting this crime and working with my staff to bring Park to justice and recover stolen taxpayer money.”
In July 2012, DiNapoli’s office issued an audit of Bilingual SEIT & Preschool Inc. that found Park inappropriately charged New York City’s Department of Education for salaries, vehicle leases and items such as cosmetics and children’s furniture. There were also a number of questionable issues related to staff salaries. For a copy of the audit, visit:
DiNapoli referred the findings to United States Attorney Bharara’s office and worked to prosecute Park and recover the stolen funds. DiNapoli also praised the work of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for New York City’s Department of Education, the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Education, and the Queens County District Attorney’s Office for their collaboration in this investigation.
DiNapoli has identified fraud and improper use of taxpayer funds in a recent series of audits and investigations of special education providers, resulting in multiple criminal convictions and the recovery of over $3 million. His office has completed 23 audits of preschool special education providers, finding nearly $23 million in unsupported or inappropriate charges. There are currently 18 additional audits of preschool special education providers in progress.
In December 2013, Governor Cuomo signed legislation – proposed by DiNapoli and sponsored by Sen. John Flanagan and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan – mandating the Comptroller’s Office audit all of the more than 300 preschool special education providers in this $1.4 billion program by March 31, 2018.