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Former Pro-Choice Group Chief Stole $250K from Donors, State AG Says

By Jill Colvin | June 29, 2012 3:06pm | Updated on June 29, 2012 4:57pm
Former NARAL Pro-Choice New York chief Kelli Conlin pleaded guilty in 2011 to stealing more than $75,000 from the nonprofit for a luxury lifestyle.
Former NARAL Pro-Choice New York chief Kelli Conlin pleaded guilty in 2011 to stealing more than $75,000 from the nonprofit for a luxury lifestyle.
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DNAinfo/Shayna Jacobs

NEW YORK CITY — State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing the former head of NARAL Pro-Choice New York for allegedly pocketing $250,000 in donations to fund a life of luxury — more than three times the amount she previously pleaded guilty to — his office announced Friday.

Kelli Conlin admitted last year to racking up $75,000 in fraudulent charges during her tenure at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and National Institute for Reproductive Health, which lasted from 1992 through January 2011.

But Scheiderman’s office alleges Conlin actually pocketed even more cash — an estimated quarter million — to fund a life of luxury, including ritzy shopping sprees at stores including Barney’s and Bergdorf Goodman, a rental home in the Hamptons, and meals at some of the city’s toniest restaurants, including 11 Madison and Daniel.

“Ms. Conlin betrayed the trust of NARAL’s supporters and donors by using charitable funds to finance her lavish lifestyle,” Jason Lilien, charities bureau chief at the AG's office said in a statement.

“This abuse of power is inexcusable, and we will hold Ms. Conlin accountable for her misconduct,” he said.

Because the burden of proof under civil law is generally lower, the AG's office can generally seek broader penalities than a District Attorney.

Among the alleged charges are $50,000 for designer clothes and shoe at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Giorgio Armani and Bloomingdale’s, $26,000 for personal travel, including hotel stays and spa treatments, and thousands to chauffeur her children and pay theirs nanny’s salary.

She also allegedly managed to spend nearly $10,000 on take-out from restaurants near her Brooklyn home, the AG's office said.

Conlin allegedly kept the organization in the dark by falsifying her expense reports to make it seem as though the charges were legitimate. She kept tight control over consultants responsible for bookkeeping and intimidated staff who raised questions about her spending, the AG's office said.

Conlin pleaded guilty last year to criminal charges and was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution.

The Manhatatn District Attorney's office praised the move.

“As a result of her guilty plea last year, Ms. Conlin has been held accountable by this Office — as a felon — for her criminal misconduct. We are pleased that the Attorney General’s Office will now seek the return of additional funds using its civil enforcement powers,” a spokeswoman for the office said.

In addition to additional restitution, the AG’s office wants to permanently bar her from heading future non-profits in the state.