MANHATTAN (CN) – Custodians at two Bronx high schools bilked the city of “hundreds of thousands of dollars” by paying themselves and others for no-show jobs, New York City and its School Board say in a racketeering complaint.
Trifon Radef and Nicanor “Nick” Fernandez hired and assigned cleaners, custodial firemen, food servers and other staff at Roosevelt High School and Truman High School, respectively, according to the federal complaint.
For several years, they put their co-defendant employees Morris Hampton, Frank Chambers, James Coppola and Michael Cunningham Sr. on the Department of Education payroll, though these employees “rarely, if ever, were present at these locations, much less ever performed any work there,” the complaint states.
The School Board claims Radef also spent more than $15,000 of school district money to spruce up his house in Queens.
“In addition, using DOE custodial payroll funds, Trifon Radef paid custodial employees for work they performed at Radef’s personal properties, for which they used DOE materials and supplies,” the complaint states.
Investigators said they investigated Radef and caught him in 2010.
“Investigators of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District (‘SCI’) conducted regular surveillance of Radef between March and June 2010, and frequently observed Radef at locations other than Truman HS during regularly scheduled work hours, for which Radef sought and received payment,” the complaint states.
The city says Radef was spotted on five work days at a restaurant and social club in Queens, and that E-Z Pass records show that he crossed bridges to Queens more than 550 other days when he should have been in the Bronx.
“A calculation of the hours elapsed between the time that Radef’s vehicle passed through the Whitestone or Throgs Neck tolls from the Bronx to Queens and the end of his scheduled shift at Truman HS establishes that Radef was paid for more than 3,000 hours of work at Truman HS when he was not there. Between December 2007 to January 2010 alone, at Radef’s base wage as a stationary engineer, he was paid approximately $70,000 for time that he was not present at Truman HS,” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, custodial fireman Hampton admitted to investigators that he was a no-show employee, and named “senior lunch helper” Chambers as a co-conspirator.
The complaint states that handyman Coppola told investigators he worked with Hampton, who had admitted he did not work there.
Fireman Cunningham, on the other hand, stonewalled investigators, and said he would contact his lawyer, according to the complaint.
All six men are accused of False Claims Act and RICO violations.The city and the Board of Education seek treble damages $15,000 in fines for each false claim.