Sherry Perlstein didn’t want the child center worker who embezzled $72,000 from her non-profit agency to get out jail without the label of felony imprinted on her forehead. Yesterday at Stamford, Conn. Criminal Court the 25 yr veteran executive director told Judge Povotator, Angela Crandon’s actions threatened the stability of the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut program and she didn’t want the 35 yr-old woman to be able to make a deal for accelerated rehabilitation. AR would have allowed Crandon to get out of jail and have the felony charged erased after a certain period of time, restitution was paid, and some community service work. The State’s Financial Crime Unit prosecutor, Tamberlyn Conopask, had her guns locked and loaded to help Perlstein get her wish. But while Perlstein and Conopask were amping up their case to keep the former care coordinator employee in jail, they were also working hard to delay the AR hearing until after the non-profit’s big money benefit this Saturday.
You see it appears image is critical for Perlstein to keep her budget in the $4 million range and make sure Fairfield County fat wallet donations keeps rollin in. A reminder that a trusted 5-year employee under her watch got away with stealing $72,000 over 2 years and 10 months unnoticed by any supervisor isn’t exactly great PR right before financial titans and big law lawyers will have a chance to donate at her organizations circus-themed party in Greenwich tomorrow night. Managing the non-profit’s reputation is obviously part of her job but it’s not the responsibility of State Prosecutor Conopask. You see Perlstein told me in the halls of Stamford courthouse yesterday Conopask had tried to push Crandon’s attorney Frank DiScala to change yesterday’s AR hearing date till after the weekend’s benefit because it could affect fundraising. DiScala said no way as his client had already been in jail for nearly 5 months because she couldn’t make the $37,500 bail. This kind of behavior begs to question why is the State Attorney office so gung-ho to help a non-profit raise money? Is that even ethical?
One motive for the government attorney to attempt to massage the judicial process could be this. The Child Guidance Center for Southern Connecticut has a lock on lucrative contracts from the State that makes them the lead referral for 211 calls (a hotline for when kids or women call if they are being abused). The non-profit also does all the Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien forensic investigation in child abuse violations. You know the type of examines that help the police build their cases. The non-profit, known as CGC, 2011 IRS filings show they get about $1.7mn from state grants and near $1mn for fees from services. The rest of their $4mn budget comes in through individual and corporate donations from the likes of GE along with non-government grants. Public filings show CGC’s revenue has declined each year by a few hundred thousand since the financial crisis as their fundraising director Jeannine Edgorf told me one large hedge fund that went bust stopped donating and CT Governor Malloy has been cutting grant funding.
Angela Crandon’s scheme, to basically pay herself a bonus while siphoning off what would equal around $2,100 a month for 34 months, was painstakingly detailed by attorney Conopask in court yesterday. Crandon’s a smart cookie who received financial aid to earn a degree from esteemed Colby College and the State’s case showed a premeditated plan side stepping the few checks and balances the non-profit had in place. She was married and divorced while working for the non-profit. Conopask kept harping on the ‘services Crandon deprived families facing mental child problems’ from but an interview with Perlstein showed the 25 families effected by Crandon’s scheme were all given the chance to get the services/ Wal-Mart gift cards Crandon allegedly took from them after her crime was uncovered. You see what Crandon was doing was using her husband’s name, Jerome, and submitting an invoice that he was a youth mentor to families in need. According to GCG and the State Attorney she’d then sent in an invoice to the government program with a form that had her supervisor’s signature on it because she was cutting and pasting it for each invoice (a whopping 70 times). When the non-profit finally realized there was something funny with this Jerome guy being continually chosen as a mentor they started their own investigation and called the Stamford police. How Crandon’s supervisor didn’t realize it was her husband’s name listed as a mentor is still unclear.
Perlstein told me most of the fraudulent invoices were just that – made up- the families didn’t even need the mentoring services Crandon falsely billed the state for in the name of her husband Jerome. So in reality a lot of the 25 families didn’t really lose out on any services. In fact NONE of them showed up in court to tell the judge their woes via Crandon’s actions. What they did tell Crandon’s supervisor when she called to interview them about Crandon was “We love Angela. She was a big help to our family”, according to Perlstein. Who appears too lost out was the DCH state budget that the non-profit choose to pay back right away and then submitted an insurance claim and recovered all but their $1,000 deductible. Perlstein told me so far their insurance premium hasn’t gone up but could.
Attorney Conopask also told the judge a story about Crandon having a salary of $43,000 in 2008 when the larceny scheme began but what she left out was Crandon’s salary was cut the years following that. Perlstein confirmed for me Crandon’s salary cut and public IRS filings at Guidestar.org show the non-profit’s board actually cut a lot of salaries in the 2009-2010 fiscal year—to the tune of $383k with revenue down $180k compared to the previous 2008-2009 fiscal year. In fact, Perlstein who made $210,947 in 2007-2008 had her salary cut to $152,230 for 2009-2010. So it looks like someone on the board’s compensation committee got a conscious and thought salaries needed to be realigned to the organization’s revenues. CGC’s 2011 public tax filing shows Perlstein got her salary bumped up but only to $161,849 for 35 hours an average work week and Crandon’s former supervisor Elizabeth Schwartz made $105,405.
Perlstein’s fundraising director Jeannine Egdorf, who says she’s already got enough donations to pay for the cost of tomorrow’s fancy Greenwich party after she did a lot of the work in-house and stopped wasting money on things like fancy invites, expressed serious worry about not raising enough in private donations. Although after a few questions I learned her goal of $1.6mn by their June year end is almost met. So with Jeannie working hard and near the non-profits financial goal what’s the big worry about the news coming out before tomorrow benefit? Enough to see a State Attorney push to delay an AR hearing and keep a woman who hasn’t been sentenced yet in jail longer?
Conopask cozy relationship with the non-profit that does some of her boss David Cohen’s forensic work for them was evident in court yesterday. Conopask kept rolling her eyes when Crandon’s attorney DiScala would speak and I heard her apologize at least three times to Perlstein and a rep from the DCH for having to wait in the court room like the rest of the victims for their turn in front of the judge. I guess it’s good to have such ‘special friends’ in the State Attorney’s office.
Judge Povotator ended up ruling Crandon wasn’t going to get AR because he said the program was designed with the goal of granting accelerated rehabilitation if the state didn’t consider the crime very serious. Povotator said, “This was a case with issues of systematic exploitation of abuse of trust and public dollars”. Then the judge went on about kids being affected and said he ‘can’t grant a program that says this crime is not a serious matter.”
Attorney DiScala said after he heard the judge’s ruling, “I’m disappointed but think the judge issued a reasonable judicial decision and took our arguments to apply for AR seriously.”
Pearlstein said she was glad about her former employee not getting AR because she didn’t want Crandon to get out of jail and be able to apply for another job without a potential employer finding out about her stealing in a background check. She also told me, “maintaining the confidence of the community and confidence of the families her non-profit services was her first concern in the case.” Or as one mother who was in the court room said after the hearing “It looked like today was all about preserving the Executive Director’s image and that of her non-profit.”
Crandon’s next court date is May 24th where once again she’ll stand handcuffed in a Stamford courtroom while lawyers and judges debate her fate.
The real lesson here is don’t steal and if you do it from a non-profit tied into the State Attorney office that deals with kids judges in Connecticut are going to put you in jail and make sure you have a visible life-long record. Crandon whose most serious charge is a class-B Larceny felony faces up to 20 years in jail. And now that she could have a felony record it’s likely going to take a very long time to pay back the $71,000 the non-profit’s insurance company is out; as life after jail will likely equate to Crandon flipping burgers for a below poverty wage.
Editors Note: Angle Crandon is African American and very over weight. Her parents came in from Ohio to show support in court. No one from the Stamford Advocate who first reported on Crandon’s case this December bothered to show up in court to report out the rest of her story or investigate the State’s case. Even rookie court reporters know facts are often left out in police reports and shouldn’t be the sole source of any reporter’s story when a few questions or observations can deliver a bigger view to the reader. I don’t usually cover criminal cases but this non-profit has ties to HedgeFund Cares and has had hedge fund donors in the past. But what most alarmed me about this story was State Attorney Conoask attempt to delay Crandon right to a speedy trial to help a victim fundraise-that simply just doesn’t sit well with me.
Disclosures: I have never used the services or donated to CGC. I have used the legal services of BachandDiScala. If you are a defense attorney who has ever had a possible judicial problem with Attorney Conoask I’d love to hear from you-don’t worry I won’t tell her you called.