Embezzled millions help buy jet skis

25th June 2004 at 01:00
United States

One of America's leading education authorities has been rocked by revelations that officials siphoned off millions of dollars to pay for multiple homes, flash cars and jet skis. Huge amounts also went to a firm based at the address of its former chief executive.

Auditors have flagged $7.8m (pound;5.2m) in suspicious transactions in the embezzlement scandal that has engulfed Roslyn school district, Long Island.

These range from nearly $600,000 in expenses racked up at local delicatessens to items such as the computer game, Crash Bandicoot, and a five-pack of John Wayne videos.

Earlier this month, former assistant superintendent Pamela Gluckin pleaded not guilty to charges that she looted more than $1m from the authority's coffers.

School superintendent Dr Frank Tassone resigned earlier this month after it emerged that a company based at his apartment billed Roslyn $800,000 during his 12 years in the job.

Located in an affluent New York commuter community, the Long Island education authority was featured in a recent Wall Street Journal report on top-flight schools and boasts test scores among America's highest. It sends 95 per cent of pupils on to higher education.

But an anonymous tip-off in February opened a can of worms. It alleged that Ms Gluckin, 58, may have plundered far more than the $250,000 she repaid when she was allowed to retire without police involvement in 2002. She is alleged to have splashed out on four mortgages and luxury vehicles - with $187,377 paid to car dealers and financing firms and $551,569 to companies registered in her name.

Investigators then caught up with Dr Tassone, 59, who collected $230,800-a-year as Roslyn's schools chief. WordPower, founded by Tassone and run by his roommate out of their Manhattan home, earned $120,000 from Roslyn since 2002 alone, providing services such as redesigning the staff telephone directory, normally handled in-house by US education authorities.

Expenses also claimed by Tassone, described in the New York Times as dapper, included a $33,141 dry-cleaning tab. His lawyer declined to comment.

"There's a tremendous amount of disappointment, anger and frustration," said a Roslyn spokeswoman.

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