FLUSHING — The director of a pre-school program for children with special needs was hit with a two-year prison sentence Thursday for scamming the city and state out of millions of dollars by overcharging them, then spending the cash on a lavish lifestyle.
Cheon Park pleaded guilty earlier this year to fraud charges and was sentenced in to 24 months in prison in Manhattan Federal Court. He will have to pay more than $2 million to those he scammed and give up nearly another nearly $2 million.
Park ran five publicly-funded centers for special needs children, called Bilingual SEIT and Preschool, which were headquartered in Flushing.
Bilingual SEIT had a contract with the Department of Education from 2005 until 2012 to provide services for children ages 3 to 5 with cognitive, communication, social and emotional issues, investigators said.
The charges followed an investigation by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, which found he billed the city more than $795,000 on other services, including more than $6,000 on bedroom furniture for his children and $887 on cosmetics.
The DOE overpaid Park by $3.1 million, according to investigators, which resulted in an investigation by Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon.
DiNapoli said the conviction would "stand as a warning for those who attempt to cheat taxpayers and instead use the money for their personal benefit."
“Cheon Park enriched himself and deprived children with physical, developmental and emotional disabilities of the help they need,” DiNapoli said.