Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Administrator Estelle Cooper Charged With Stealing

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park retired official Estelle Cooper, 82, has been charged with stealing about $50,000 from a nonprofit group she founded.

Cooper, who was arraigned on the charges yesterday, was the administrator of the park as an official of the New York City government for 17 years, and is credited with revitalizing the facility with “bright new recreation and aquatic centers and soccer fields of evergreen artificial turf,” until she called it a career in January.

Back in 2003, Cooper launched Unisphere Inc. to further her work in protecting the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York. She now stands accused to stealing from that organization, which she left in December.

The New York Times explains how the scandal came to light:

Phil Ragusa, a certified public accountant who had filed the nonprofit group’s tax returns since its inception, said he discovered evidence of theft in November 2011, when he uncovered major A.T.M. withdrawals that could not be accounted for. “All the people loved her, and all of a sudden something like this comes up,” said Mr. Ragusa…

After the discovery, Unisphere conducted an internal audit and passed on the findings to the district attorney’s office in February.

Cooper could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. Her age and reportedly poor health, as well as her long service to the city of New York Parks and Recreation Department, would suggest that it is unlikely that she would do any jail time, however, assuming the case ever gets to trial.

The Unisphere was (and is) the 12-story, 140-foot high iconic symbol of the 1964 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park that represents the Earth. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was the site of the 1939 World’s Fair as well.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was also the location of Shea Stadium,the home of the New York Mets from 1964 to 2008.

[Image credit: Flapane]