PARK SLOPE — A nonprofit director in charge of promoting Flatbush Avenue businesses stole $85,000 from the merchants group and used the money to pay for Beyoncé tickets, manicures, and other personal expenses, authorities say.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson on Monday announced the indictment of Sharon Davidson, 63, the former head of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District who resigned abruptly in late 2013 from the cash-strapped group.
Davidson was arraigned Monday on charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, scheming to defraud, and offering a false instrument for filing. She was released without bail and is due back in court on May 13.
Davidson's defense attorney Morris Shamuil said Davidson maintains her innocence. "She looks forward to vindicating herself in court,” Shamuil said.
Prosecutors and investigators with the city's Department of Investigation say Davidson siphoned $85,000 from the BID's accounts to buy herself restaurant meals, clothes and entertainment. Davidson spent $13,000 on PayPal to buy clothing, makeup and jewelry, $4,000 at Talbot's, the women's clothing store, $3,000 at FreshDirect, $600 on tickets to a Beyoncé concert, $600 at Weight Watchers and $400 on manicures and pedicures, authorities say.
Davidson also collected about $5,000 in unemployment benefits while she was working as the BID's executive director, a job that paid $30,000 a year, according to a criminal complaint filed in Kings County Supreme Court. Davidson, who had control of the BID's payroll, halted her own paychecks then filed for unemployment, authorities say.
The North Flatbush BID serves about 150 businesses along Flatbush from Park Slope to Prospect Heights, covering the avenue from Grand Army Plaza to Atlantic Avenue. Businesses that belong to the BID pay an annual fee that's used for local improvements such as street cleaning, street banners and neighborhood events.
The North Flatbush BID collects about $115,000 to $150,000 annually from the businesses it serves. Authorities say Davidson carried out her theft over a period of nearly four years, from February 2010 until December 2013.
"The 150 small business owners who joined the North Flatbush BID paid into it with the expectation that those funds would be used to promote their businesses," Thompson said in a statement. "Instead, the defendant allegedly used the BID's accounts as her own personal piggy bank, spending non-stop on everything from airline tickets to chocolates. She will now be held accountable."
North Flatbush BID President Regina Cahill said the group was grateful to the Brooklyn District Attorney, the Department of Investigation and the city's Small Business Services agency, which oversees BIDs citywide. "It's up to the courts to follow through now," Cahill said.
After Davidson's sudden departure, the city's Small Business Services Agency conducted an audit of the BID because it was running a deficit — which is unusual for a BID, an SBS spokeswoman told DNAinfo in 2014.
The SBS audit led investigators to uncover Davidson's alleged theft, authorities said Monday.
Davidson's attorney said he would carefully review the BID's financial paperwork. "That's really what this case comes down to," Shamuil said. "How accurate were the accounting records, and do they really show what the people purport?"