April 27, 2017
By Stephanie West
New York, NY – Rabbi Samuel Hiller, the former assistant director of Island Child Development Center, once one of New York City’s largest providers of special education services to pre-schoolers with disabilities, pleaded guilty to stealing $5 million in city and state funding between 2005 and 2012 — money that was intended for special needs students between ages three to five.
Island Child Development Center (ICDC), a private not-for-profit company that is now defunct, was located at 1854 Cornaga Avenue in Far Rockaway, Queens, and primarily provided services to pre-school children in the communities of Far Rockaway in Queens and Williamsburg and Borough Park, in Brooklyn.
Comptroller DiNapoli said, “Stealing from the public is bad enough, but exploiting small children to pay your plumber and support your for-profit camps is reprehensible. I thank District Attorney Brown for partnering with my office in the fight to end special education fraud in New York state.”
Hiller pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny. Sam Hiller will forfeit approximately $1 million in seized assets, sign a confession of judgment for $3 million, pay an additional $1 million in restitution at the time of sentencing, June 15, 2017. Hiller is expected to be sentenced to one to three years in prison.
Hiller and his three co-defendants — Ira Kurman, 54, of Hewlett, Roy Hoffmann, 53, of Woodmere, and Daniel Laniado, 44, of Brooklyn — were indicted on the alleged thefts in 2014. All were accused of illegally diverting more than $12 million of the $27 million ICDC received in state funding to their relatives, their for-profit businesses and for personal expenses including jewelry, a family wedding and home renovations. Kurman had been the former Executive Director of ICDC; Roy Hoffmann had been hired by ICDC to serve as its independent auditor as required by the state; and Daniel Laniado, while not employed by ICDC, was a self-described “investor” in ICDC.
The thefts were discovered after the Office of New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli notified ICDC and specifically, Ira Kurman, that it planned to conduct a routine audit of SEIT funds provided to ICDC. When auditors arrived for the meeting, in July 2012, they were informed that Kurman had left his position and had taken his books and records with him. After further investigation, DiNapoli referred the case to the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the two offices partnered to fully expose the fraud.
DiNapoli has identified fraud and improper use of funds in a recent series of audits of special education providers. In addition to this case, his investigations have resulted in multiple criminal convictions and the recovery of more than $9 million in stolen public funds. His office has conducted 91 audits of pre-school special education providers, finding nearly $59 million in unsupported or inappropriate charges.