BROOKLYN — A former city bookkeeper who oversaw funds left by people who died without a will was sentenced to up to 18 years in prison Thursday after being caught stealing $2.6 million from seven estates between 2008 and 2011, officials said.
Richard Paul, 36, who worked in the office of the Kings County Public Administrator, was convicted in November of forging a series of checks to reroute money from deceased Brooklyn residents' estates to bank accounts belonging to multiple accomplices, Department of Investigation officials said.
The money was supposed to be sent to the Department of Finance, which is responsible for holding the funds until heirs are identified, DOI officials said.
“This defendant used death as an opportunity to steal millions. Today’s sentence shows such crime leads to prison," New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters said in a statement. "DOI traced the funds and unraveled this complex fraud scheme in partnership with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.”
The investigation started in December 2011 when head Brooklyn public administrator Bruce Stein discovered a forged check for about $650,000 drawn from one of the estates the office was managing.
Officials discovered that $2,617,000 had been stolen between Aug. 2008 and Nov. 2011.
Paul was aided by Taryn Miller, 35, of Brooklyn, who was also convicted for helping to facilitate the scheme, according to the DOI.
Miller's husband, George Bethea, 36, who pleaded guilty last summer, received $150,000 in stolen funds, according to a November statement by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.
Ransel Sangster, 37, also pleaded guilty last summer to receiving two checks while he was working at the New York City Department of Homeless Services from Paul totaling nearly $600,000.
Paul was convicted on Nov. 13 for first degree grand larceny and defrauding the government.