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Nonprofit for Troubled Moms Hired Conman Who Preyed on Clients, Sources Say

By Murray Weiss | April 21, 2015 7:40am
 Serial conman Daniel Rodriguez has gotten high paying jobs running hospital administrations and has gotten engaged to numerous women.
Serial conman Daniel Rodriguez has gotten high paying jobs running hospital administrations and has gotten engaged to numerous women.
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DNAinfo

MANHATTAN — A Manhattan social service agency hired a career criminal to counsel troubled young mothers, only to have him quickly begin to prey on them — getting one pregnant and nearly costing another the custody of her children, a DNAinfo New York investigation has found.

Daniel Rodriguez, a smooth-talking conman whose criminal record dates back to 1987, parlayed a fake resume and his gift for gab into a $40,000-a-year counselor's post at the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership, a nonprofit focused on helping struggling young mothers.

He joined the organization not long after spending four years in state prison for swindling a Bronx health agency. When officials finally learned the truth, Rodriguez was quietly let go — and continues leaving a trail of victims here and in at least three other states.

Theresa, not her real name, who is now a 24-year-old mother of a 7-year-old son, recalled how her life was nearly destroyed after she became pregnant with Rodriguez's child.

The Harlem single mom was juggling a job, raising a son and completing her high school degree in October 2011 when she attended a Partnership presentation at her school given by Rodriguez.

On its website, the Partnership claimed to have the “capacity over time to deliver integrated, continuous and comprehensive health and social services and support to women and their infants from cradle to grave.” 

That appealed to Theresa, who was then 20 and hoping to go to college and become a nurse.

“I went through a lot of struggles, especially for my son, without having any relatives in New York, and I managed to keep a roof over our heads even while going to school,” she said.

She signed up, and within days Rodriguez began to pursue her romantically.

"He sent me flowers all the time — that had never happened to me before — and he said he was a minister's son studying for a masters at Hunter College and wore a cleric's collar," she recalled. "I thought I found a man who loves life, who works to help people."

Rodriguez also claimed he counseled domestic violence victims for the city.

“He was gentle, loving, funny and given my religion, I thought I found . . . my prince charming,” she said.

But once she became pregnant, Rodriguez changed. He became aloof, and cold. "I wanted to know who this man really was," she recalled.

She quickly learned the painful truth that his record included more than a dozen arrests in New York and New Jersey, primarily on fraud and assault charges, but also for making terrorist threats after 9/11.

One high-profile arrest in 2007 involved swindling the Soundview Clinic in The Bronx, which at the time was operated by state Sen. Pedro Espada. Rodriguez had obtained a $87,000 administrator's post by claiming to have been a top mental health official in the Bloomberg administration. He was released in August 2010, just months before he was hired by the Partnership.

Another victim, Marilyn, also not her real name, who is a 24-year-old hospital nurse's assistant, said she nearly lost custody of her two sons because of Rodriguez.

Marilyn said she was ordered by the court to take a two-month program at the Partnership as part of a deal with the city's Administration for Children's Services to get her kids back from foster care.

When she enrolled, Rodriguez assigned himself as her counselor. He also started hitting on her.

"I would not go out with him, and insisted on keeping everything professional," she said.

But things turned ugly when she completed the course. City officials rejected her "graduation papers" because Rodriguez was not a licensed counselor. They told her she would have to retake the program elsewhere. In the meantime, her kids remained under foster care.

"I was hysterical," she recalled.

Both Theresa and Marilyn, who asked that their names be withheld, said they complained to the Partnership's management, but officials seemed more concerned about keeping things quiet.

Marilyn said she spoke directly with Mario Drummonds, the executive director.

"He told me not to talk about this with anyone else," she recalled. "He said, 'We don’t want to make a big deal out of it.'’'

Theresa also was told "not to discuss the situation with anyone,” she said. "They even told people who worked there that they would lose their jobs if they had any further dealings with me."

“On The Inside” tried to talk with Drummonds about Rodriguez, but Drummonds hung up the phone twice, and failed to return subsequent calls seeking comment.

Created in 1990, the Partnership has grown from a small agency into a nearly $10 million-a-year organization, funded largely through federal, state and city social services grants. It has four locations and a staff of about 120 employees.

Although the coffers of nonprofits are replenished with taxpayer money, there are no government agencies with direct oversight of them, except over their spending, state and city officials acknowledge.

As a result, there are no specific regulations regarding hiring practices or background-check requirements, and they are not mandated to publicly report incidents such as what happened with Rodriguez to any public entity, including law enforcement.

That allowed the Partnership to quietly release Rodriguez — allowing him to move on to victimize others.

That's what Rodriguez allegedly did, initially in Brooklyn, and later in Connecticut, Massachusetts and now in Maryland, where he was accused of conning more woman and several other health care facilities.

He combed Christian dating websites, pretending to be a minister and New York University divinity professor, for women. Eventually, he got engaged to a Brooklyn health worker in the fall 2012, DNAinfo New York previously reported.

After she learned she was engaged to a convicted conman, she was forced to go to court to force him out of her apartment, which he refused to leave for weeks.

A health care worker in Hartford, who asked for anonymity, told "On The Inside" she met him on a dating website in early 2013. He pretended to be the head chaplain and minister for the state Department of Corrections, which he was not.

He then moved on in October 2013 to Massachusetts, where he was hired thanks to a phony resume as a $65,000-a-year administrator at two popular eye clinics in Shoreham, a suburb 9 miles north of Boston.  His first management move was to fire people, according to a source familiar with his job.

He also met an executive assistant, who told "On The Inside" that she nearly married him before his unsavory past emerged, and he moved on. Officials at the clinic declined to comment.

Last July, Rodriguez sent his "resume," including a new credential that he once worked as a vice president at Emblem Health in New York, to the Calvert Memorial Hospital in Prince Frederick, MD. He was hired as a $126,000-a-year Executive Director of Calvert Physician Associates, a source said. The hospital also apparently paid his moving expenses.

The position gave him approval power over everything from paying phone bills to underwriting expenditures for overseas work in struggling foreign countries.

According to a source, his first move at Calvert was to fire several employees, as he had done previously at other places. He also immediately hit on a hospital employee woman he met as soon as he started.

"He would not leave me alone," the woman, who requested anonymity, told "On The Inside."

He told her he was married with four children, including a set of 21-year-old twins, all girls, but was getting divorced. He also said he had been a reverend "years ago" for a prison system.

And he quickly showered her with praise, gifts — paid for with hospital funds, it was later determined — and she finally agreed to lunch. Soon he proclaimed his love and asked for her hand in marriage, and got her pregnant, she said.

Suddenly last September, he left his job at Calvert, apparently after he was again quietly unmasked as a fraud, the woman said. Hospital officials declined to comment.

Since then, Rodriguez moved on to another large health services company last January, the now ex-girlfriend in Maryland explained. But he was always looking for a backup perch to land.

"I heard him doing a telephone interview for a position, in Missouri," the Maryland woman said. "He told them he was calling from New York, and would need moving expenses."