Bookkeeper Admits Stealing Nearly $1 Million From Cemetery

A Staten Island bookkeeper has admitted stealing nearly $1 million from the United Hebrew Cemetery. Ilana Friedman, age 51, reportedly worked together with her husband Arthur S. to steal over $850,000 in cash and charge over $150,000 on the cemetery’s credit card.

Mrs. Friedman plead guilty to second degree grand larceny in the Stapleton Criminal Court on Tuesday. The attorney general offered the plea deal, which includes returning $1.1 million in restitution.

As reported by Staten Island Live, the couple ran the cemetery for nearly 15 years. Authorities discovered that within a five year period, between 2006 and 2011, Mrs. Friedman stole nearly $1 million from the cemetery‘s funds. Mr. Friedman reportedly knew about the theft, but did nothing to stop his wife.

Court documents revealed that the couple used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle, which included numerous vacations to Las Vegas and Florida, purchase of electronics, gourmet meals, jewelry, and trips to the theater.

The couple avoided suspicion for five years, as Mrs. Friedman was in charge of the bookkeeping. An eventual audit by the New York Division of Cemeteries revealed several inconsistencies. The books were turned over to the Attorney General for closer inspection. Investigators discovered that the bookkeeper stole nearly $1 million from the United Hebrew Cemetery.

As reported by NY Daily News, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has stated that the couple “abused their posts at this Staten Island cemetery to enrich themselves.”

Mrs. Friedman was charged in the theft as she initiated the transactions. Her husband was not charged criminally as he simply enabled his wife’s behavior.

In addition to the restitution, $100,000 must be paid to Schniederman’s office for costs associated with the investigation and audit. Mrs and Mr. Friedman have also been banned from any employment involving cemeteries and funeral services.

Owners of the United Hebrew Cemetery have fully cooperated with the investigation and are expected to appoint new board members by the end of the year. They have been ordered to take steps to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Mrs. Friedman will remain in probation for five years. If she abides by the guidelines in the plea agreement, the bookeeper will avoid jail time for stealing nearly $1 million from the cemetery.

[Image via Wikimedia]