A.G. Schneiderman Announces Guilty Plea Of Former Chief Operating Officer Of Drug Rehabilitation Center For $200,000 Embezzlement Scheme
COO Admits To Looting Taxpayer-Funded Charity For Years
Schneiderman: Those Who Rip Off Taxpayers And Addicts In Need Of Help Will Be Held Accountable
ALBANY - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the guilty plea of Dennis Bassat, 53, formerly of Middle Grove, New York, for embezzling at least $200,000 from a taxpayer-funded, Troy-based nonprofit organization over a four-year period. Bassat pleaded guilty before Judge Andrew G. Ceresia in Rensselaer County Court to one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony and the highest count in the indictment filed against him. The case has been adjourned for sentencing on August 12, 2013.
“Today’s conviction demonstrates our commitment to ensure that taxpayer dollars go to critically needed services, not to swindlers who abuse their positions of trust,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Those who steal public resources will not be allowed to avoid justice by hiding behind the charitable organization they run. They will be held accountable.”
Bassat was the Chief Operating Officer of 820 River Street, Inc., a New York State not-for-profit corporation with offices in Troy, New York, and elsewhere in the state. 820 River Street, Inc. 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., which he and another manager misused to steal funds from the company. After the Attorney General obtained an indictment against him, Bassat was arrested in Florida on December 7, 2012 and extradited to New York.
Bassat and another former manager stole over $200,000 from 820 River Street, Inc. as part of a fraudulent scheme. Bassat admitted in court that he personally stole over $160,000 from 820 River Street, Inc. from late December 2006 through February 2011. (Bassat’s accomplice personally stole over $50,000.) In order to perpetrate the larceny, Bassat wrote numerous checks from the company’s checking account to fictitious persons. Bassat signed timesheets that indicated fictitious persons performed maintenance or repair work for 820 River Street, Inc., or he signed mileage log sheets that indicated 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.
Pursuant to the terms of a plea agreement, Judge Ceresia promised Bassat a sentence between a minimum of 1 to 3 years in prison and a maximum of 2 to 6 years in prison. The judge noted that if Bassat violated the agreement, he could be sent to prison for up to 5 to 15 years. The judge also ordered Bassat to surrender on Monday next week.
This conviction is the result of an on-going investigation into 820 River Street, Inc. by the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau, Federal Bureau of Investigation (Albany Division), the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, and the New York State Department of Labor.
This case is being handled by 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. The prosecutors were assisted by Investigations Bureau Investigator Mark Spencer, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Antoine Karam and Chief Dominick Zarrella of the Investigations Bureau, and Richard Cicero, Jim Newell, and Mike Kester from CQC. The Attorney General also commended the FBI for its assistance with the investigation.