Theft of 9/11 Funds Sees NYC Emplooyee Sentenced To 15 Years – US Attorney

LawFuel – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, announced that NATARAJAN R.
VENKATARAM — a former high-ranking employee of the Office of the
Chief Medical Examiner for the City of New York (“OCME”) — was
sentenced today to 15 years in prison for his involvement in a
scheme to steal millions of dollars, including funds provided to
the OCME by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) to
assist in responding to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade
Center on September 11, 2001. VENKATARAM was also ordered to pay
restitution and forfeiture in the amount of $2,970,072. The
sentence was imposed in Manhattan federal court by United States
District Judge ROBERT P. PATTERSON. VENKATARAM, of Queens, New
York, pleaded guilty before Judge PATTERSON on October 30, 2007
to one count of conspiracy, one count of embezzlement and
misapplication of funds from the OCME, and fourteen counts of
money laundering. According to documents filed in this case and
statements made in court:

For approximately 13 years, VENKATARAM was the OCME’s
Director of Management Information Systems (“MIS”). In that
capacity, he supervised the day-to-day operation of the OCME’s
computer network and was responsible for the support of the
OCME’s computer hardware and software applications, including
systems used to track and identify forensic evidence (including
DNA evidence) from crime scenes. His duties also included the
supervision of outside consultants who provided day-to-day
support services for the OCME computer network. VENKATARAM’s codefendant,
ROSA ABREU, was the OCME’s Director of Records and was
VENKATARAM’S primary assistant.

The OCME developed an acute need for computer services
following the September 11th attacks, when it was assigned the
task of identifying victims through the forensic analysis of body
parts and other evidence collected at Ground Zero. Many of the
OCME’s September 11th-related expenses were reimbursed by FEMA,
which provided more than $46 million to OCME in 2002 and 2003.
Between 1999 and 2005, VENKATARAM steered more than $13
million in OCME contracts and purchase orders to three companies
run by a co-conspirator (“CC-1”) by advising CC-1 how much to bid
on OCME contracts and arranging for CC-1’s three companies to
submit purportedly independent “competing” bids. In the vast
majority of cases, CC-1’s companies were paid in full under the
OCME contracts but did less work than reported, or no work.
Instead, CC-1’s companies would transfer funds to other
companies, as directed by VENKATARAM, in exchange for a fee. In
other cases, CC-1 wrote checks according to VENKATARAM’s
directions, or provided VENKATARAM with signed but otherwise
blank checks from the CC-1 companies for VENKATARAM to use as he
saw fit.

At VENKATARAM’s direction, millions of dollars in funds
paid by OCME to CC-1’s companies were used for VENTKARAM’s and
ABREU’s personal benefit. For example, VENKATARAM directed CC-
1’s companies to make more than one million dollars in payments
to three shell companies created by VENKATARAM and ABREU — A & D
Marketing Corp., Trade A2Z Inc., and Infodata Associates — none
of which had any employees or conducted any legitimate business.
VENKATARAM and ABREU then used the funds in the shell company
accounts to withdraw cash, make payments to personal accounts,
and transfer money overseas. VENKATARAM also directed checks
from the CC-1 companies, totaling more than one million dollars,
to various companies run by his acquaintances, which, in all but
one case, did no work for the CC-1 companies or OCME. The
companies run by VENKATARAM’s acquaintances, in turn, made cash
payments to VENKATARAM or issued checks to VENKATARAM or two
companies controlled by him.

VENKATARAM also directed more than $6 million, paid by
OCME to a CC-1 company, to a company in Hyderabad, India for
VANKATARAM’s own benefit. That company provided minimal goods
and services to OCME and the CC-1 company. VENKATARAM also
incorporated a United States-based company with a similar name
and arranged for OCME to pay it for work that was never done.
The funds paid to that company were then transferred at
VENKATARAM’s direction to one of VENKATARAM’s and ABREU’s shell

ABREU pleaded guilty on October 23, 2007 to one count
of conspiracy, one count of embezzlement and misapplication of
funds from OCME, and three counts of money laundering. She faces
a maximum sentence of 75 years in prison when she is sentenced on
a date to be determined.

Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative work of the New
York City Department of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorneys ANDREW S. DEMBER and
ARLO DEVLIN-BROWN are in charge of the prosecution.

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