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Feds Join Probe of Harlem Nonprofit That Gave Execs $200K 'Bonuses'

By Murray Weiss | March 30, 2016 7:44am

MANHATTAN — The Manhattan nonprofit that botched Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $4.35 million contract for his signature health initiative while its top executives paid themselves bonuses has been hit with a federal grand jury subpoena seeking records about the charity's payouts and expenditures, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The subpoena was issued days after a DNAinfo investigation last month disclosed that executives at the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership received hundreds of thousands of dollars in “bonuses” in apparent violation of city, state and federal regulations.

The city’s Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara have teamed up to investigate the Harlem-based nonprofit’s financial dealings, according to sources and documents obtained by DNAinfo.

The federal subpoena requested annual budgets, expenditures, salaries and payments to, among others, Mario Drummonds, the nonprofit's longtime executive director who was fired in November, and Diomedes Carrasco, the chief financial officer, according to an internal three-page memo issued to NMPP staffers.

Staffers were also warned not to destroy documents or computer files.

“Failure to comply with this requirement could result in criminal penalties to the organization as well as yourself," the memo said.

Ashanti Chimurenga, the acting NMPP director, declined to comment, as did Norman Bloch, a lawyer at Thompson Hine, which the embattled nonprofit hired to deal with the probe.

DNAinfo’s investigation revealed that executives at the Partnership gave themselves $200,000 between December 2014 and last July at the same time they were failing to deliver on a $4.35 million, three-year Department of Health and Mental Hygiene contract to carry out an initiative to bring health care to city housing projects.

The project was modeled on a program the mayor saw in Nicaragua in the 1980s when he was a 26-year-old volunteer.

The DNAinfo probe found that between December 2014 and July 2015,  Drummonds received $71,300, and Carrasco, raked in $87,000 in bonuses that more than doubled their salaries.  Sources also said “bonuses” were taken dating back more than seven years.

According to city and state officials, taxpayer monies cannot be used for "bonus" payments.

“You must retain and preserve all relevant information in its current form, whether paper, electronic or otherwise,” the NMPP internal memo instructed employees, explaining that the subpoena covered  letters, spreadsheets, databases, telephone logs, computer disks, CDs, handwritten notes, and home and personal computers, laptops and smartphones.

The NMPP has received at least $50 million from four city agencies — including the Health Department, Department of Education, and Administration for Children's Services — during the past 15 years, primarily to combat infant mortality rates in Harlem and help young mothers and their children.

A majority of the city funding came from City Council “discretionary funds.”

It also received funding from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services.

In a separate development, investigators requested NMPP records for Daniel Rodriguez, a career criminal hired as a case manager by Drummonds without a background check, who is accused of preying on the women he was supposed to help.

And finally, sources say investigators are expected to question city officials whether they have adequate checks-and-balances on their contracts.  

A spokesman for the DOI also declined comment, as did the spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.