A.G. Schneiderman Announces The Arrest Of Former Head Of Drug Rehabilitation Center For Multi-Year Embezzlement Scheme

820 River Street, Inc. COO Dennis Bassat Stole At Least $200,000 From Taxpayer-Funded Not-For-Profit; Investigation Continues

Schneiderman: Criminals Who Rip Off Taxpayers By Taking From Those In Need Will Be Held Accountable For Their Greed

 

ALBANY - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and arraignment of 820 River Street executive Dennis Bassat in Rensselaer County Court for embezzling at least $200,000 from the taxpayer-funded, Troy-based not-for-profit drug treatment organization over a four-year period ending in 2011. The indictment charges Bassat, 53, of Middle Grove, with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree; two counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree; and two counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree. The top count of the indictment carries a maximum sentence of five to 15 years imprisonment. The Office of the Attorney General is continuing its investigation of the scheme.

“Stealing from a nonprofit that provides services to people with drug and alcohol addiction, including those who are homeless, demonstrates a willingness to place one’s greed far above the needs of the community. This scheme is simply reprehensible,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Today’s charges demonstrate how the collaboration among my office, the FBI, and Commission on Quality of Care can help ensure that taxpayer dollars entrusted to nonprofits are being used for their intended purposes, and that corrupt individuals who betray the public trust to line their own pockets will be punished.”

According to Attorney General Schneiderman’s indictment, Bassat was the Chief Operating Officer of 820 River Street, Inc., a New York State not-for-profit corporation with offices in Troy and elsewhere in the state that provided alcohol and substance abuse treatment services, and was part of an umbrella organization of multiple not-for profits, known as Peter Young Housing, Industry and Treatment (PYHIT). PYHIT companies received funding through New York State grants, legislative member items, and contracts.

As Chief Operating Officer, Bassat had signatory authority on a checking account held by 820 River Street, Inc. The indictment alleges that Bassat and another individual engaged in a fraudulent scheme in which Bassat wrote numerous checks from the company’s checking account to fictitious persons. As part of the scheme, Bassat signed timesheets which indicated that the fictitious persons performed maintenance or repair work for 820 River Street, Inc., or he signed mileage log sheets which indicated that fictitious persons had traveled for business purposes on behalf of 820 River Street, Inc. and thus were entitled to mileage reimbursement. After drafting each one of the fraudulent checks, Bassat, or his accomplice, signed the fictitious person’s name on the back of the check. Either Bassat or his accomplice then co-endorsed and negotiated the fraudulent checks. Bassat either cashed the fraudulent checks and kept or shared the cash with his accomplice, or deposited the fraudulent checks into his personal bank account, resulting in a theft of at least $200,000 from 820 River Street, Inc.

The charges against Bassat are the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by Attorney General Schneiderman’s Public Integrity Bureau, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Albany Division), and the New York State Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities.

"The FBI is committed to continuing its collaborative effort with the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the FBI’s other law enforcement partners to combat White Collar Crime and Public Corruption in the Capital Region," said Paul Holstein, Albany Spokesperson for the FBI.

“The Commission on Quality of Care works to ensure the integrity of public resources that are used to serve individuals with disabilities,” said Roger Bearden, chair of the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. “I am gratified by the successful collaboration with the Attorney General and the FBI to seek justice against those who would steal money intended to provide care to persons with disabilities.”

Prosecuting the case are Assistant Attorneys General Darren Miller and YuJin Hong, under the supervision of Public Integrity Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz, Chief William E. Schaeffer, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan. Mark Spencer, under the direction of Antoine Karam and Dominick Zarrella of the Attorney General's Investigations Bureau; Special Agents Timothy Coll and Michelle Pherson; and Commission on Quality of Care auditors John Rybaltowski, Richard Cicero, James Newell and Michael Kester, assisted with the investigation of this case.

The charges are merely accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Anyone with additional information on this matter should call the Attorney General’s Office at 518-474- 8686.

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