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Monday, February 10, 2014

NY - Attorney Arrested For Stealing Nearly $2 Million From Hebrew Cemetery

NEW YORK – New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest of Timothy Griffin, former acting president of United Hebrew Cemetery, on felony grand larceny charges for embezzling nearly $2 million from the nonprofit. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the indictment unsealed today in Richmond County [Staten Island, NYC] Supreme Court and statements made by the prosecutor at arraignment, the Attorney General's investigation revealed that Timothy Griffin, 54, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, stole the money from United Hebrew Cemetery between October 2012 and January 2014. 

During this period, Griffin was the acting president of United Hebrew Cemetery, having assumed that role after the former president and his wife were indicted by the Attorney General’s office for embezzling more than $1 million. Griffin abused his position to make six unauthorized wire transfers ranging from $250,000 to $385,000 to his own attorney escrow account.

“It's always sad and shocking when we discover that someone used a charity as their own personal piggy bank,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “New York has the greatest nonprofit sector in the nation, but a case like this reminds us of the need to remain vigilant and strengthen our oversight of the industry. Stealing from not-for-profit organizations is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Those who abuse their positions at not-for-profits to line their own pockets will be held accountable."

United Hebrew Cemetery is a Jewish nonprofit cemetery located at 122 Arthur Kill Road in Staten Island. A prior investigation by the Attorney General's Office revealed that the Cemetery's former administrator, Ilana Friedman, stole over $850,000 between 2005 and 2011. Ilana Friedman was convicted of felony grand larceny charges in April 2013. Both she and her husband Arthur Friedman, the former president of United Hebrew Cemetery, were permanently banned from working in the funeral or cemetery industry.

After the Friedmans were removed by the board, United Hebrew Cemetery appointed Griffin, their outside counsel, as acting president. A subsequent audit by United Hebrew Cemetery and investigation by the Attorney General’s Office revealed that after his appointment, Griffin himself then embezzled almost $2 million from United Hebrew Cemetery.

Griffin is charged with one count of Grand Larceny in the First Degree (a class "B" felony) and six counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a class "C" felony). Griffin was arrested this morning and arraigned before the Honorable Stephen Rooney in Richmond County Supreme Court. He is currently being held on $750,000 bond over $250,000 cash bail.

If convicted, Griffin faces a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. The charges against the defendant are allegations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The Attorney General's Office thanks the New York State Department of State, Division of Cemeteries, for their valuable assistance in this case.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Chin-Ho Cheng, with the assistance of Legal Analyst II Paul Strocko of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton, Bureau Chief Gary Fishman and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

The investigation was handled by Investigator Sixto Santiago, under Supervising Investigator Luis Carter, Deputy Chief of Investigations Vito Spano and Chief Dominick Zarella.

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