BY SAM RAPPAPORT
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced on Tuesday that the executive director of the Island Child Development Center (ICDC), once one of the city’s largest providers of special education services to preschoolers with disabilities, was sentenced to six months in prison and probation after paying $650,000 in restitution.
Ira Kurmen, 55, of Hewlett, Long Island, pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny in December after he and three co-defendants were indicted in 2014 on the alleged theft of millions of dollars of state funding that was meant for the ICDC.
“The funds provided to this center were designated to aid children with special needs,” the Queens DA said.
“However, [Kurmen] and his co-defendants treated the allocated money as if it were their own personal pocket change. Those who would victimize children for their own personal gain will be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.”
Brown said that Kurmen and his co-defendants—Rabbi Samuel Hiller, 60, of Far Rockaway; Daniel Laniado, 45, of Brooklyn; and Roy Hoffmann, 54, of Woodmere—illegally diverted millions of dollars of the $27 million that the ICDC received in state funding to their relatives, their for-profit businesses and for personal expenses, including jewelry, a family wedding and home renovations.
Kurmen was the last of the four defendants to be sentenced. Hiller, who was the assistant director of the ICDC, pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny and was sentenced to one to three years in prison and ordered to pay $5 million in restitution. Laniado, an ICDC investor, pleaded guilty to first-degree identity theft and was ordered to pay $82,000 in restitution. He also signed a confession of judgment for an additional $1.3 million.
Hoffman, who served as an independent auditor at the ICDC, pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny and was sentenced to six months in jail, five years’ probation and paid $180,000 in restitution.
“My office’s audit and extensive investigation with Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown brought four scammers to justice for their thefts at the Island Child Development Center,” Comptroller DiNapoli said. “Our joint work resulted in a recovery of $8 million that was stolen from special education funds.”
The now-defunct ICDC was a not-for-profit company that primarily provided services for pre-school children of the Orthodox Jewish communities of Far Rockaway in Queens and Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn.
In 2012, the comptroller notified the ICDC that it planned to conduct a routine audit of state funds provided to the center. When state auditors arrived at the center for a meeting in July of that year, they learned that Kurmen had left his position and had taken his books and records with him. Shortly after that, the auditors referred the case to the Queens district attorney’s office.
Reach reporter Sam Rappaport via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 123.