Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the arrest and arraignment today on a grand jury indictment of a Hempstead man charged with stealing approximately $1,200 in grant funds obtained by the Hempstead Union Free School District, as well as attempting to steal an additional $1,274 meant for pre-kindergarten students and staff.
Sirlentor Berry, 40, was arraigned before Nassau County Court Judge David Sullivan on the following grand jury charges:
• Grand Larceny in the 4th Degree (an E felony)• Attempted Grand Larceny in the 4th Degree (an A misdemeanor)• Two counts of Official Misconduct (an A misdemeanor)
Judge Sullivan set bail at $5,000 bond or $2,500 cash. Berry faces a maximum sentence of 1-1/3 to four years in prison if convicted of the top charge against him. He is due back in court on Nov. 17.
“The funds provided to pre-kindergarten and other academic programs are a vital investment in the future of our children – not spending-money for public employees who should be looking out for what’s best for our kids,” DA Rice said. “My office will continue our efforts to protect important programs like pre-K that help ensure that every child is put on a track toward educational success and opportunity.”
DA Rice said that on Jan. 24, Berry, as a teaching assistant for a pre-kindergarten program at Hempstead Union Free School District, presented the AMC Raceway 10 Theater in Westbury with a check from the District which covered the attendance for every child registered in the pre-kindergarten program and the accompanying staff members.
Due to absences that date, the amount actually charged by the theater was a substantially smaller amount. While at the theater that day, Berry received from the theater the difference of $1,199 in cash, and he never returned those funds to the District.
Berry made provisions for another field trip to take place on March 26. He again arranged for a check to be issued by the District from the grant funds covering all enrolled pre-kindergarten students and accompanying staff members. This time, however, the check was not available on the morning of the trip, but was to be delivered to the theater two days later by Berry, who attempted unsuccessfully to receive in cash the difference between the amount of the check and the costs incurred by the actual attendees, which in this case was $1,247.
This pre-kindergarten program is largely funded through public grant money awarded to the District, and lawfully disbursed to pay for associated salaries, benefits, materials, supplies, and approved field trips.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren McDonough of DA Rice’s Public Corruption Bureau is prosecuting the case. Berry is represented by Luigi Vigliotti, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.