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Crying shame for centers-Brooklyn day care operators hit with charges of fraud

It’s a short trip from the rungs of a baby’s crib to the bars of a cell block for five Brooklyn day care center operators, who were all charged with defrauding special government-funded child care programs last week.

The day care sites — located almost entirely in East Flatbush, Crown Heights and Clinton Hill — allegedly sucked almost $60,000 from state coffers, prosecutors from the Kings County District Attorney’s office announced Thursday.

Day care center owners, who are all facing upwards of seven years in prison if convicted, are charged with padding their books and doctoring up receipts and invoices for reimbursement from programs run by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.

The money was meant to reimburse day care operators for the items they had purchased to improve their centers, but instead went into their pockets because they allegedly never purchased the items or returned the products for full refunds as soon as the reimbursement requests went out, Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes explained.

“Greedy people will take advantage of programs designed to serve the common good,” Hynes told reporters. “The victims in this case are the taxpayers, the hardworking people who depend on day care centers to care for their children during the day, and the legitimate day care operators who were denied funding, in favor of these defendants.”

The fraud was uncovered during a 2008 audit conducted by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.

Day care center operators charged included Carol Alleyne, 47, owner of Thelma Sleepover, 263 Brooklyn Avenue at Lincoln Place in East Flatbush; Judith Guerrier, 33, of the Sanctified Learning Center, 404 Lefferts Avenue off New York Avenue in East Flatbush; Dhanmattie “Donna” Boodhoo, 44, of Donna’s Quality Day Care, 2007 Linden Boulevard in Crown Heights and Dorothy Shareef, 59, owner of the Mulberry Bush, at 1425 Bedford Avenue near Prospect Place in Clinton Hill.

Also charged was Bertha Blachorsky, 68, of the Zion Day Care Center, 5000 14th Avenue in Borough Park, officials said.

Prosecutors alleged that most of the day care center operators bilked between $1,500 and $15,000 in reimbursements that were meant to pay for extra cribs, furniture books, computers, start-up costs and expansions of their centers.

Guerrier, officials charged, not only sent in bogus invoices for furniture and expansion costs, but she also received extra state money because one of her teachers was also listed as a consultant.

But instead of paying the teacher the extra salary, she pocketed the money, put it into her personal account and spent it on vacations, pricey jewelry, and shopping excursions to Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s, officials allege.

The most egregious fraud was allegedly conducted by Boodhoo, who took the New York State Office of Children and Family Services for $19,000 in misleading start-up expenses.

Prosecutors alleged that she told the state that the money she was seeking was to create a day care center for 60 children, yet she had falsified all of the invoices from Kaplan Early Learning for cribs, tables and chairs that were never bought for the center.

She also received state funding for items she claimed she bought for her center, but only received price quotes for, officials alleged.

Such rampant fraud was “particularly worrisome in this time of fiscal hardship,” he said.

DiNapoli, who announced the arrests with Hynes, agreed.

“There’s never a right time for fraud,” he said. “But now more than ever, every dime counts. Families depend on these important programs, which provide children with safe and nurturing day care services. We need to protect the tax dollars that fund them.”

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