It was not enough that the United Hebrew Cemetery on Staten Island was operated by a couple who embezzled more than a million dollars from the bank account of the cemetery. When the cemetery’s board of directors found out about the financial mismanagement, they brought in the cemetery’s outside counsel, Timothy G. Griffin, to straighten out the financial mess.
Instead, Griffin created a bigger one.
After being named acting president of the cemetery, Griffin then stole nearly $2 million from the kitty, according to a finding by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
According to court papers which have been unsealed, between October 5, 2012 and Jan. 3 of this year, Griffin transferred a total of $1.95 million from the nonprofit cemetery’s permanent maintenance fund into his own attorney escrow account. He accomplished this through a series of separate wire transfers, ranging from $250,000 to $385,000.
Griffin, 54, was arrested and arraigned on Monday, Feb. 10, on seven counts of grand larceny. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered back to court on Feb. 24 for a conference.
Griffin potentially faces a maximum of eight and one-third to 25 years behind bars if convicted of the top count, first-degree larceny.
“It’s always sad and shocking when we discover that someone used a charity as their own personal piggy bank,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “Stealing from not-for-profit organizations is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The former cemetery director, Ilana Friedman, was sentenced last October to a three-year conditional discharge after she and her husband, Arthur S. Friedman, reimbursed the cemetery $1 million and forked over $100,000 to Schneiderman’s office to defray its investigative costs. The husband was the former president of the cemetery. Both Friedmans have been permanently banned from working in the funeral or cemetery industry.
Charles Greinsky, president of Congregation B’nai Israel in Bay Terrace, said hundreds of congregation members and their families have plots at the cemetery.
“It’s disgusting,” he said of the allegations against Griffin. “You go from one thief to a bigger thief,” according to a local paper.
United Hebrew Cemetery is a Jewish nonprofit cemetery located at 122 Arthur Kill Road in Staten Island.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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