EAST WILLIAMSBURG — A serial fraudster duped students and staff at a Grand Street Campus high school into believing his bogus $1.5 million donation would fund tickets to Broadway shows, a field trip to the Grand Canyon and high tech equipment for learning, according to a report and authorities.
Juan Diaz Romero, who claimed he was a related to a student at the school, donated the money in the form of a check to the High School for Business Enterprise and Technology located at 850 Grand St., the New York Post reported.
Romero, 49, was welcomed into the school as “our benefactor Dr. Diaz.”
But the check, donated a month before Christmas, bounced in January, according to the Post. The would-be benefactor then wrote a second check to the school, this time for a heftier $10 million. That one also bounced, according to the Post.
After the second bad check, the Department of Education referred the matter to police.
But this is not Romero's first scam job, according to police.
Romero, who's last known address was in Middleton, N.Y., has been arrested a handful of times in the past for writing bad checks and conning unsuspecting victims out of thousands of dollars, according to police.
In 2004 he swindled money from two different people he had told to invest in companies and the stock market, making off with $7,000, police said.
Twice in 2006, Romero tried to buy cars with bad checks. First he tried buy a Range Rover in Manhattan with a fake check worth $91,898 and he did the same thing several months later, attempting to buy two Cadillacs worth $186,000, police said.
And several years earlier in 2003 he had posed as a lawyer in Landlord/Tenant Court in Manhattan even though he's not certified, police said.
In 2007, Romero was convicted of criminal possession of a forged instrument and spent just over a year in state prison, correction records show. He was released in 2008.
Officials at the school declined to comment and referred to the Department of Education's press office. The DOE confirmed they had received a check from Romero that was rejected when they deposited it. They referred the matter to the city's Special Commissioner of Investigation, who didn't respond immediately to a request for comment.
Romero could not immediately be reached to respond to the allegations.
“The school received a donation from this donor, which was rejected when deposited. We referred the matter to the Special Commissioner of Investigation,” the Department of Education wrote in a statement to the Post.
“I feel like the school was robbed,” student Estafano Santana, 15, told the Post.