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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Is Betty Burney a participant in her brother's fraud schemes?

From the New York Post, By REUVEN FENTON and BRUCE GOLDING

There was apparently no treasure too small to be plundered.

City Councilman Larry Seabrook’s alleged sales-slip scams included padding the prices on a stack of children’s books — including the classic pirate tale “Treasure Island” — according to evidence presented yesterday at his federal corruption trial.

Five gift receipts that the Bronx Democrat allegedly claimed covered books bought for $25 each were actually for titles that cost just $3.99 apiece, a senior Barnes & Noble employee testified.

José Nario, director of the merchandise system for the bookstore chain, said the five tomes were purchased on June 6, 2006, at a since-closed branch at 675 Sixth Ave.

City Councilman Larry Seabrook allegedly falsified charges on five nearly identical, illegible Barnes &Noble receipts, claiming he spent $125 on children’s books that actually totaled $21.62.

The other classic titles were “Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “The Time Machine” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” Nario testified in Manhattan US court.
None of the barely legible gift receipts — which Seabrook submitted for reimbursement from his North East Bronx Community Democratic Club — bear the purchase price, although each has a handwritten “$25.00” notation at the top.

But Nario said he was able to use the Barnes & Noble computer system to recreate the original sales slip, down to the identity of the cashier who handled the transaction and the register at which it was made.

The reconstructed receipt shows the total cost of all five books, including sales tax, was just $21.62 — less than one-fifth the amount that Seabrook received in reimbursements for them, according to earlier testimony from his former chief of staff, lawyer William Low.
During cross-examination, defense lawyer Anthony Ricco pointedly noted that the books were bought with a MasterCard — and not the American Express card that Seabrook used for other purchases previously documented by prosecutors.

Seabrook’s defense team has suggested that he may have innocently sought reimbursement using receipts that were given to him by other people after he paid their purported expenses out of his pocket.

Also yesterday, another prosecution witness revealed exactly what was on the notorious bagel listed on a deli receipt that Seabrook is accused of doctoring to collect a $177 reimbursement.
Robert Garber, owner of Bits, Bites and Baguettes on Park Place, said the sandwich — which apparently was delivered to nearby City Hall — featured a helping of Boar’s Head Oven Gold turkey on a cinnamon bagel, with lettuce and tomato.

But Garber said the unusual combo cost no more than $5.60, and not the $155.60 listed on the crooked receipt.

Likewise, he said a diet Snapple that supposedly cost $21.45 probably went for only $1.45 — although he conceded on cross-examination that Seabrook’s name appears nowhere on the delivery ticket.

The feds have accused Seabrook of a series of schemes that include steering more than $1.5 million in taxpayer funds to a network of “dysfunctional” nonprofits he secretly controlled, and defrauding $350,000 intended to boost minority hiring in the city Fire Department.
Another witness, city employee John Cirolia, detailed the consulting fees paid to several of Seabrook’s relatives under what Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara has called his “corrupt, City Council-funded friends and family plan.”

Cirolia, an assistant finance commissioner for the Department of Youth and Community

Development, said Seabrook’s sister, Betty Seabrook Burney, was paid $7,200 for a single day’s work.

And Seabrook’s brother, Oliver Seabrook, got $2,500 and sister Priscilla Jenkins got $2,000 — also for a single day of work — while his nephew Keith Johnson was paid $300 for six hours of work, Cirolia said.

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