FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Former Office Manager of Brooklyn Real Estate Management Firm
Indicted for Allegedly Stealing over $100,000 from Employer
Deposited Payments meant for DEP into her own Account Bearing Similar Name;
Created Bogus Website to Cover her Tracks
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a former office manager and bookkeeper of a Crown Heights real estate management company has been indicted for grand larceny, possession of a forged instrument, tax fraud and related counts for stealing over $100,000, primarily by funneling payments for water bills into her own account. The defendant allegedly created an entity called NYC Water Assessment and deposited checks payable to NYC Water into her account instead of sending them to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant was trusted to handle her employer’s accounts but, instead, she allegedly executed a calculated scheme to steal money and conducted an elaborate cover-up when questioned about the theft. We are committed to prosecuting fraud cases in Brooklyn and will seek to obtain restitution for victims whenever possible.”
The Acting District Attorney identified the defendant as Christi-Ann Rique, 29, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 56-count indictment in which she is charged with second- and third-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, offering a false instrument for filing and tax fraud. She was ordered held on $10,000 bond or $5,000 cash and to return to court on April 5, 2017. The defendant faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count with which she is charged.
The Acting District Attorney said that the defendant was employed for about eight years as an office manager and bookkeeper at a property management company located on Saint Marks Avenue in Crown Heights. In 2015, according to the investigation, the defendant incorporated an entity with the state’s Department of State called NYC Water Assessment, which listed her residence as the business address. She also opened two JPMorgan Chase bank accounts under that company name, which listed her residence and reflected she was the corporation’s “president.”
From April 2015 through March 2016, the defendant allegedly embezzled 51 checks totaling $84,558 from various properties managed by the real estate management firm for which she worked. The checks, payable to NYC Water, were deposited instead into her NYC Water Assessment account, the investigation found. When questioned by her employer about billing irregularities in April 2016, the defendant allegedly presented communications from NYCDEP.com, reflecting assessments on the properties.
The investigation revealed that the defendant created the NYCDEP website and created email communication associated with that made-up website. The communication alleged the City’s DEP has a “DEP Billing Assessment Program.” According to DEP, no such program exists.
The investigation also revealed that the defendant allegedly stole tenants’ money orders totaling $27,202, which were meant to pay rent, security and fines. She instructed tenants to leave the ‘pay to the order of’ line blank then filled in her name or altered the words on that line to read her name, according to the indictment. From January 2012 through June 2016, the defendant deposited 46 such altered money orders into her personal bank account.
In total, the defendant stole $111,760 from the management company, according to the indictment. She spent the money to pay for expenses such as travel, retail purchases, groceries and dining.
The Acting District Attorney thanks Natalya Sydorchuk, Auditor, and Michele Demeri, Associate Attorney, of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, for their assistance in the investigation.
The case was investigated by New York City Police Department Detective Desmond Brown of the NYPD Brooklyn North Grand Larceny Squad and Financial Investigator Ludwig Sanchez of the District Attorney’s Asset Forfeiture and Crimes Against Revenue Bureau.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Maria Leonardi of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Felice Sontupe, Chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.