WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Three former employees of the Westchester County Department of Parks and Recreation pleaded guilty on Thursday to defrauding Westchester County out of tens of thousands of dollars in parking revenue and MetroCard sales from the Westchester County Center parking lot.
Marcus Harris, 29, of Mount Vernon, Jahmai Samuel, 28, of Bronx and Alessia Velez, 29, of Richmond Hill all pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, which is a felony.
The three former employees are the principal defendants in an investigation resulting in charges against an additional 12 people.
The remaining 12 defendants are friends, girlfriends, relatives or associates of the employees.
Over a three-year period from Aug. 13, 2009 to June 29, 2012, the defendants were involved in a scheme that involved employees at the parking lot selling full-year, half-year, or quarterly parking permits to unsuspecting customers, who were told to write the check out to a “third party,” rather than Westchester County.
Customers were told that these “third parties” had lost their jobs, or moved and no longer needed their parking space and were trying to recoup a portion of their parking permit fee. The names that the customers were induced to write on the checks were usually one of the defendants or a friend/family member.
The total theft includes the approximately $10,000 in cash Samuel took in Metro-North Railroad proceeds that were ostensibly remitted by the County to Metro-North that the New York City Transit MetroCard Fraud Unit was able to document.
In addition to the amounts deposited directly into their own bank accounts, these defendants used the bank accounts of other individuals to deposit additional stolen monies.
The total larceny from all 15 defendants is more than $195,000.
The scheme came to light last summer when Jahmai Samuel was the victim of a robbery at gunpoint on June 29. When the NYPD questioned Samuels about why he was in possession of $3,000 cash, he maintained that the money was customer parking cash receipts from his job which “he forgot to take to the bank after work.”
The New York City shooting proved to be the catalyst for this investigation in that it prompted questions as to how an employee of the Westchester County Department of Parks came in to position of that much cash representing parking proceeds.
Samuels faces a maximum of 15 years in state prison. Harris and Velez face a maximum sentence of seven years each in state prison.