MANHATTAN (CN) – The former executive director of Pathways for Youth, a Bronx nonprofit agency, pleaded guilty Monday to “misapplying” program money by funneling it to former state Sen. Efrain Gonzalez Jr. through the West Bronx Neighborhood Association. Neil Berger faces up to 10 years in prison at his June 25 sentencing.
Pathway’s mission was to “improve and further generally the welfare and happiness of young people,” but Berger admitted that some of its money improved and furthered the wealth and property of state Sen. Gonzalez.
“Berger admitted that sometime in about May 2004, he received indications that WBNA was using the funds from Pathways to pay for, among other things, former State Senator Gonzalez’s personal expenses,” federal prosecutors said.
An earlier indictment said that much of the money went for Gonzalez’s private expenses in the Dominican Republic, including rent for his wife’s “luxury apartment in a building called Residencial Parque de Gazcue,” renovations to his mother-in-law’s house, his membership fees for the “Coral Vacation Club,” and logo design for his “private cigar manufacturing and distribution company.”
More money allegedly went to Gonzalez’s house in Monroe, N.Y., Yankees tickets, jewelry, clothes and his daughter’s college tuition.
Around the same time Gonzalez allegedly accepted these gifts, he “directed that the New York State Legislature provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in ‘member item’ funding to Pathways,” according to prosecutors.
Gonzalez is scheduled to go to trial with two employees of the West Bronx Neighborhood Association on May 4.
Berger will be sentenced for one count of federal program fraud on June 25.