Non-profit’s one-time head faces up to 15 years for embezzling
Yolanda Gonzalez, whose mother founded Nos Quedamos, the organization responsible for rebuilding a devastated 35-square block portion of Melrose, has been charged with looting the organization of nearly $900,000.
Gonzalez, who succeeded her mother Yolanda Garcia as executive director of Nos Quedamos stole the money over a period of four years, until she was fired by the Nos Quedamos board for financial irregularities, according to the indictment and a statement by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“In addition to her salary of more than $70,000 per year, Gonzalez brazenly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the nonprofit’s bank accounts by writing checks to herself or to cash, making ATM withdrawals, and paying for personal expenses on corporate credit cards,” said prosecutors in court when she was arraigned on Oct. 9.
The indictment also charges that Joseph Ingenito, the former chief financial Officer of Nos Quedamos, gave the organization’s board of directors phony balance sheets and annual financial statements to help cover up the thefts.
In November, 2010, Gilberto Rivera, the president of Nos Quedamos’ board and one of the organization’s founders, quit and sent copies of his letter of resignation to local organizations. The letter accused Gonzalez of “favoritism,” “nepotism,” and “no accurate financial reports.”
Three months later, the board fired Gonzalez, changed the locks on the organization’s Melrose Avenue office and complained to the attorney general, whose office regulates non-profit organizations.
Nos Quedamos began in the early 1990s as an effort to stop the city from displacing the few thousand residents who remained in the Melrose Commons area in order to build Housing Authority-style high-rises. Instead, its founders demanded a say in how the area would be rebuilt after the fires and abandonment that had all but destroyed it.
In meetings with city officials and architects, the organization fought for the mix of housing that now characterizes the Melrose Commons urban renewal area—apartment building of medium height and town houses, occupied by mixed income residents. Nos Quedamos became the developer and manager of many of those properties.
Yolanda Garcia, a founder and the first executive director of Nos Quedamos, died in 2005, much mourned by the neighborhood and the city, which honored her by naming Third Avenue between East 156 and East 159 streets Yolanda Garcia Way.
Her daughter succeeded her as the organization’s executive director. Beginning in 2007, the indictment charges, she began to embezzle funds from Nos Quedamos and two subsidiaries, NQ Development, LLC, and NQ Management, Inc. She used the money or the organization’s credit cards for purchases at department stores, nail salons and jewelry stores, and even for movie tickets, and also bought a new 2009 Toyota Sienna with stolen funds, according to prosecutors..
The indictment unsealed on Oct. 9 charges Gonzalez and Ingenito with multiple counts of grand larceny, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing. Gonzalez faces up to 15 years in prison. Ingenito faces up to four years behind bars.