Alleged custodian scheme at NYC Schools

April 5, 2011 2:42:22 PM PDT
New York City Schools are already hammered financially because of budget problems, but now have been ripped off for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It's part of an alleged scheme by a handful of school custodians who were paid even though they never showed up at work.

"He pretty much did what he wanted to do," said Richard Condon, the Special Commissioner NYC School District.

Trifon Radef seemed to be the king of his castle, by day a custodian at Theodore Roosevelt High School, and by night, same position at nearby Truman, but officials maintain, things weren't as they seemed.

In a new report, investigators say the 36-year-old "Engaged in a long term scheme to defraud the DOE out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in custodial payroll funds."

"The more people you have doing something like this, the more likely you are to get caught and they had a lot of people," Condon said.

Condon says Radef and at least a dozen others are part of the elaborate plan centered around "ghost employees" which are no shows at both high schools, who raked in about half a million dollars in bogus pay checks.

According to the report, while at Truman, Radef was paid about $70,000 and didn't lift a finger.

Investigators, "Reviewed E-Z Pass records, December 2007 and January 2010, on more than 550 days, recorded going from the Bronx to Queens during the hours he was clocked in."

But that's not all.

"We have him in different restaurants in Queens, we followed him, he'd leave, not go to school at all or stop for a few minutes and go somewhere, go home," Condon said.

Glen Oaks is reportedly home base for the other part of this scheme.

Investigators say for years Radef hired and paid several custodians to do work on his other properties.

Like one in Floral Park, using money set aside for Roosevelt.

"The DOE has to tighten significantly its supervising authority over these people," Condon said.