Former NYC Medical Examiner Steals 9/11 Funds

LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ROSA ABREU, a former employee of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for
the City of New York (“OCME”), pleaded guilty yesterday to
embezzlement, money laundering and conspiracy charges in
connection with a scheme to steal millions of dollars, including
funds provided to the OCME by the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (“FEMA”) to assist the OCME in responding to the terrorist
attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. ABREU,
40, of Queens, New York, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal
court before United States District Judge ROBERT P. PATTERSON.
According to the Indictment and statements made during ABREU’s
guilty plea:

ABREU was the OCME’s Director of Records and was the
primary assistant to co-defendant NATARAJAN R. VENKATARAN — the
director of the OCME’s department of Management Information
Systems (“MIS”) — for approximately 13 years. ABREU was
responsible for 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. The OCME developed an acute need for computer services
following the September 11 attacks, when it was assigned the th
task of identifying victims through the forensic analysis of body
parts and other evidence collected at Ground Zero. Many of the
OCME’s September 11 -related expenses were reimbursed by FEMA, th
which provided more than $46 million to OCME in 2002 and 2003.
Between 1999 and 2004, ABREU’S co-defendant NATARAJAN
R. VENKATARAM steered more than $13 million in OCME contracts and
purchase orders to three companies run by a co-conspirator (“CC-
1”) by, among other things, 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 did little or no work under the
contracts, but would instead transfer the funds to other
companies as directed by VENKATARAM, in exchange for a fee. In
many cases, CC-1 simply provided VENKATARAM with signed but
otherwise blank checks from the CC-1 companies to use as
VENKATARAM saw fit. In other instances, CC-1 wrote the checks
out according to VENKATARAM’s instructions.

VENKATARAM then directed millions of dollars in funds
paid by OCME to CC-1’s companies for his 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 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 two companies controlled by VENKATARAM.
VENKATARAM also directed more than $6 million, paid by
OCME to a CC-1 company, to a company named Visualsoft
Technologies, Ltd. in Hyderabad, India. Visualsoft Technologies
Ltd. provided minimal goods and services to OCME and the CC-1
company. VENKATARAM also incorporated a United States-based
company called Visualsoft Corporation and arranged for OCME to
pay funds to Visualsoft Corporation for work that was never done.
The funds paid to VENKATARAM’s Visualsoft Corporation were then
transferred at VENKATARAM’s direction to one of VENKATARAM’s and
ABREU’s shell companies.

ABREU pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, one
count of embezzlement and misapplication of funds from OCME, and
three counts of money laundering. ABREU’s sentencing is
scheduled for January 23, 2008. She faces a maximum sentence of
75 years’ imprisonment. VENKATARAM is awaiting trial scheduled
for November 26, 2007. The charges and allegations against
VENKATARAM are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent
unless and until proven guilty.

Mr. GARCIA praised the investigative work of the New
York City Department of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys ANDREW DEMBER and
ARLO DEVLIN-BROWN are in charge of the prosecution.

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