Pennsylvania Man Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Bribing New York City Department Of Education Employee In Furtherance Of $2.7 Million Fraud
Fraud Scheme Was Based on False Billing for Services to Special Needs Students That Were Never Provided
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that NELSON RUIZ pled guilty today to defrauding the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) out of approximately $2.7 million and to bribing a DOE employee in furtherance of the fraud scheme. RUIZ pled guilty in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “In stealing scarce and precious education resources intended for children with special needs, Nelson Ruiz did an extreme disservice to both the DOE and the children who really do need extra help. We have no tolerance for those who defraud the government and who bribe public officials in furtherance of their schemes.”
According to the Complaint, the Information, the plea agreement, and statements made in court:
From 2008 through June 2012, RUIZ used six companies that he controlled (the “RUIZ Companies”) to bill the DOE approximately $2.7 million for sign language interpretation services. According to the DOE billing forms that RUIZ submitted, the sign language interpretation services were provided between 2008 and June 2012 to 11 New York City public schoolchildren – all of whom had varying special needs, including cognitive, developmental, academic, and language delays (the “11 Students”) – at their schools.
None of the sign language interpretation services for which the DOE paid the RUIZ Companies were ever provided to any of the students. In fact, none of the students actually needed the services that the RUIZ Companies claimed to have provided and for which he received approximately $2.7 million. For example, during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years, at least three of the 11 Students were not even enrolled in a DOE school. In addition, from July 2010 through May 2012, RUIZ falsely certified on 75 DOE billing forms that he had provided approximately $200,000 worth of sign language interpreting services to one of the 11 Students, even though that student never received any such services during that period and had not been a New York City public school student since 2009.
Ruiz used students’ personal information, submitted fraudulent DOE applications and billing forms, forged the signatures of at least two students’ parents and seven DOE officials – one of whom had died prior to the date of her forged signature, and another who had retired six years prior to the date of her forged signature.
As part of this scheme, RUIZ also paid hundreds of dollars each month to an employee of the DOE to whom he submitted the fraudulent billing forms for the 11 Students. RUIZ paid these bribes in exchange for the DOE employee’s assistance in, among other things, expediting the processing of and payment to RUIZ for the fraudulent sign language interpretation bills.
* * *
RUIZ, 35, of Shohola, Pennsylvania, pled guilty today to one count of mail fraud and one count of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. He faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison on the fraud count and a maximum term of 10 years in prison on the bribery count. In addition, RUIZ has agreed to forfeit to the United States a total of $2,720,860, representing the proceeds of the crime, including approximately $275,000 that the Government seized from the RUIZ Companies’ bank accounts at the time of RUIZ’s arrest. RUIZ is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Koeltl on March 22, 2013 at 10 a.m.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the New York City Department of Investigation and the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Paul Krieger and Alvin Bragg are in charge of the prosecution. Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Goldstein is in charge of the forfeiture aspects of the case.