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Crime & Cases November 23, 2012  RSS feed

Fmr. RBSCC Head Admits To Fudging Court Papers

Sent Fake Salary Info To Grand Jury
by Robert Pozarycki

The former executive director of the Ridgewood-Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC) admitted her guilt to a criminal contempt charge in federal court last Thursday, Nov. 15, for lying to prosecutors about her six-figure salary in false documents sent in response to a subpoena for evidence, it was reported.

Christiana Fisher, 57, faces a maximum term of six months in prison after admitting in a Manhattan courtroom that she authorized the creation and submission to a grand jury documents regarding her compensation for her work with the nonprofit organization.

Fisher faces a maximum term of six months in a federal prison when she is sentenced on Apr. 17, 2013, before Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV, who accepted her guilty plea. As a result of her plea bargain, the former RBSCC director agreed to forfeit over $170,000 which was paid to her as a pay increase omitted in the false documents.

“[She] knowingly misled investigators and prosecutors and obstructed the grand jury process,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a press release last Thursday. “We will not allow the criminal justice system to be manipulated by those who are not truthful.”

“By her own admission, Ms. Fisher participated in willfully misleading the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI,” added Acting Assistant Director in Charge for the FBI’s New York Office Mary Galligan. “This is a serious offense because the likely consequence is to impede a federal investigation.”

“No non-profit executive receiving city funding can be intentionally misleading,” said City Investigations Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn. “The city’s contract vetting process continues to be vigilant and protect taxpayer funds.”

The RBSCC—which has had a long-standing relationship with Assemblyman Vito Lopez, whom Fisher previously served as campaign treasurer— came under investigation by a federal grand jury in September 2010.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a subpoena on behalf of the jury seeking financial documents from the non-profit organization.

According to the charges, Fisher authorized false documents about her compensation—which reportedly jumped from over $330,000 in 2008 to over $780,000 the following year—to be created by the non-profit group, then sent to the grand jury in response to the subpoena.

“Fisher participated in the document production process and was aware that the documents and tax filings provide by RBSCC’s board of directors ... were false and that they would mislead investigators and prosecutors about the board’s approval of her salary,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Fisher stepped down from her post at the RBSCC earlier this year.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie H. Cohen of the Public Corruption Unit prosecuted the case.

Lopez, meanwhile, remains under investigation over charges that he allegedly sexually harassed two female staff members. The 14-term incumbent— who resisted calls for his resignation and was overwhelmingly re-elected by voters to a 15th term on Nov. 6—was censured by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and stripped of his seniority status, which included chairmanship of the Assembly House Committee.

The Lopez investigation is being conducted by Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who was appointed as the special prosecutor to handle the matter.