Department of Education Vendor Pleads Guilty in Special Needs Fraud Case
By Nina Mandell on December 18, 2012 6:07pm
NEW YORK — A Department of Education vendor pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to mail fraud and bribery charges, nearly six months after being busted for misappropriating millions of dollars in funds meant for special needs children, the DOE announced.
Nelson Ruiz and a partner — William Cruz — misappropriated more than $2.7 million over a four-year period, according to a DOE special investigation. During that time the two allegedly billed the DOE for $1 million in sign language interpretation services that were never provided for 10 special needs children.
“This scheme diverted public funds meant to help special needs children,” Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District Richard Condon said in a statement following Ruiz’s arrest in August.
The investigation found that three of the children Ruiz claimed to have provided services for weren’t even enrolled in a DOE school, the Department of Justice said in August. The scamming duo also allegedly forged the signatures of seven DOE officials — including one who had died and another who had retired prior to their signatures being forged, prosecutors charged.
Ruiz pleaded guilty to a single count of mail fraud and a single count of bribery, for a bribe he paid to a DOE employee who processed billing forms, officials said. Cruz's case is still pending.
Ruiz forfeited the proceeds of his crime and is expected to be sentenced in March of 2013.