New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today issued the following statement on the guilty plea to mail fraud in federal court by Cheon Park, the owner of Bilingual SEIT & Preschool Inc., which stemmed from a referral from DiNapoli’s office.
“Cheon Park blatantly enriched himself to the tune of millions of dollars and deprived children with physical, developmental and emotional disabilities of the help they need. His guilty plea today stands as a warning for those who attempt to cheat taxpayers and exploit gaps in oversight. I’d like to thank U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for prosecuting Park and working with my investigators and auditors to bring abusers of the special education system like Park to justice.”
In July 2012, DiNapoli’s office issued an audit of Queens-based Bilingual that found the provider inappropriately charged New York City’s Department of Education nearly $1.5 million for salaries, vehicle leases and items such as cosmetics and children’s furniture. There were also a number of questionable issues related to staff salaries. For a copy of the audit, visit: http://osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093012/11s13.pdf
DiNapoli has identified fraud and improper use of funds in a recent series of audits of special education providers. In addition to this case, his investigations have resulted in multiple criminal convictions and the recovery of over $600,000 in stolen public funds. His office has completed 22 audits of preschool special education providers, finding nearly $22 million in unsupported or inappropriate charges. There are currently nine additional audits of preschool special education providers in progress.
In December, Governor Cuomo signed legislation – proposed by DiNapoli and sponsored by Sen. John Flanagan and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan – mandating audits of the more than 300 preschool special education providers in this $1.4 billion program by March 31, 2018.