Daughter of community group’s founder guilty of embezzlement
Yolanda Gonzalez, the former director of the Melrose-based community development organization Nos Quedamos, was convicted on Dec. 4, of grand larceny and tax fraud. She was sentenced to up to four-and-a-half years in prison.
Gonzalez, whose mother, Yolanda Garcia, launched the widely respected advocacy organization in the early 1990s, pled guilty to embezzling nearly $900,000 from the group. Gonzalez, 46, stole the money by making withdrawals from Nos Quedamos’ bank accounts to pay for personal expenses ranging from manicures and movies to jewelry and a new car, according to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Gonzalez took over leadership of the organization after her mother’s death from a heart attack in 2005. Along with the outright thefts, Gonzalez’s conviction “reflects guilt of a range of tax-related felonies,” said New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas Mattox.
Gonzalez’s former business partner, Joseph Ingenito, was convicted for helping her to cover up the thefts. Ingenito, who was Nos Quedamos’ Chief Financial Officer during Gonzalez’s tenure, falsified business records and submitted phony financial documents.
“New York’s not-for-profit sector will only remain the strongest in the nation if we continue to root out despicable, corrupt behavior like this,” said Schneiderman in a statement. But Schneiderman also praised Nos Quedamos’ board of directors for “alerting my office to suspicious activity” in 2010. He went on to “encourage the good actors in any organization to stay vigilant and come forward if they suspect wrongdoing” to “keep our nonprofit sector healthy and honest.”
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 other Bronx 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 alerted the attorney general, whose office regulates non-profit organizations. Another former board member, Jessica Clemente, has since become the group’s executive director.
The state investigation uncovered evidence that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been embezzled from the nonprofit and two related groups, NQ Development, LLC, and NQ Management, Inc. In addition to drawing a salary of more than $70,000 per year, the investigation found 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, including purchases at department stores, nail salons, jewelry stores, and movie theaters.”
The statement goes on to say Gonzalez “also purchased a new 2009 Toyota Sienna with stolen funds, at a cost of more than $29,000. To conceal the thefts, Gonzalez and Ingenito falsified Annual Financial Reports, balance sheets, and financial statements for Nos Quedamos and submitted them to the Board of Directors and the New York State Attorney General’s Office.”
Finally, Gonzalez “failed to file taxes on her illicit income, resulting in tax liability totaling over $64,948,” the statement says.
As a condition of her plea, Gonzalez must also sign confessions of judgment in favor of Nos Quedamos for $886,613.24 and the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance for $64,948.
Gonzalez’s sentencing is set for January 13. Ingenito will be sentenced next February to six months of house arrest and five years probation.