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A Brooklyn couple is facing more than 10 years in prison for allegedly pocketing more than $2 million in federal dollars meant for nutritious food for preschool children.
Ziming Shen and his wife, Joanna Fan, were arrested for taking the money on Sept. 15. Federal prosecutors claim that they had been stealing the funds — meant for the children in the day care centers they control — since 2004.
Investigators learned that Shen and Fan ran the non-profit Red Apple nursery in Sunset Park, as well as other parts of Brooklyn and Queens. Enrolling in a federal Department of Agriculture program that makes sure children receive nutritious meals, Shen and Fan qualified for at least $2.7 million in aid to buy the meals for the children participating in their programs.
Yet records show that only $24,000 of that money was spent on food, prosecutors said. The rest was used to buy property and other personal expenses, investigators charge.
“This amounts to one of the largest lunch money thefts in history,” Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch told reporters.
According to the complaint, Fan allegedly took the lion’s share of the program’s funds — about $1.8 million — between 2008 and 2009. When investigators confronted her with this information, she admitted that she took the money, although she said she had only “borrowed” the money and planned to give it back.
After being arrested, both Shen and Fan each posted a $750,000 bail — but Shen ended up back in the slammer when he attacked a photographers waiting for him outside Brooklyn Federal Court. Shen punched and kicked several shutterbugs trying to snap up his picture, leading to his arrest on misdemeanor assault charges, officials confirmed.
An attorney for Shen didn’t discuss the assault arrest, but said that his clients hope to clear their names.
“They’re going to defend this vigorously, and obviously all the facts have not come out,” attorney Barry Agulnick said.
A Brownsville woman is suing her landlord, claiming the Crescent Street homeowner is trying to evict her because she wouldn’t give into his sexual advances.
Sheretha Keaton claims that she was friendly with her landlord, but drew the line when the married man floated the idea that they sleep together.
“It started from day one, but I ignored it because I needed a place to live,” Keaton told the New York Post. “Every time he’d come by, he’d have something to say.”
Keaton said her landlord, identified in court papers as Andrew Uwa, would ask her when she was going to cook him dinner, called her repeatedly, made comments on her looks and asked her to go to bed with him, according to the lawsuit she filed in Brooklyn Federal court.
When he realized that his advances were being shot down, things got ugly, the lawsuit states. He would allegedly curse out Keaton and her daughter, who is paying her $1,350 rent with $700 in Section 8 Housing benefits since 2005. He would also refuse to make needed repairs.
Finally, he took steps to have Keaton evicted. In return, Keaton filed the sexual harassment lawsuit, seeking $15 million in damages.
“It’s not that easy to relocate,” she told reporters. “I don’t have money to move just like that.”
Attempts to reach Uwa or his attorney were unsuccessful, but Uwa’s wife laughed at the prospect that Keaton had been sexually harassed.
“I don’t know why they won’t just get out of our house,” the woman told the Post. “Whenever she called, we responded.”
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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