Former Queens Parks Commissioner Charged In Alleged Theft
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown today announced that Estelle Cooper, the former administrator of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and executive director of Unisphere Inc., a nonprofit conservancy group that she helped establish and which funds activities at the park, has been indicted on charges that she stole in excess of $50,000 from the conservancy.
Cooper, 82, of Whitestone, was arraigned on July 17 before Queens Supreme Court Justice Fernando M. Camacho on a two-count indictment charging her with second- and third-degree grand larceny. Cooper, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, was released on her own recognizance and ordered to return to court on September 12.
The alleged fraud was initially discovered in November 2011 as a result of an internal audit conducted by Unisphere Inc., which referred the results of the audit to the Queens District Attorney’s Office in February 2012. The matter was thereafter presented to a Queens County grand jury which charged that Cooper obtained access to Unisphere funds and then systematically stole more than $50,000 thereof between Nov. 1, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2011.
Cooper resigned as executive director of Unisphere Inc., in December 2011. The following month she tendered her resignation as administrator of Flushing Meadows- Corona Park and as assistant commissioner with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
The investigation was conducted by Detective Kevin J. Kehoe, of the District Attorney’s Detective Bureau, under the supervision of Sergeant Evelyn MacDougall and Lieutenant Robert J. Burke and under the overall supervision of Deputy Chief Investigator Albert D. Velardi and Chief Investigator Lawrence J. Festa. Also assisting in the investigation were Forensic Accountant Andrew W. Risi under the direction of Supervising Forensic Accountant James J. Dever. Legal interns Alexander Mendez and Nicholas Passaro also aided in the investigation.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Peter A. Crusco in charge of Brown’s Investigations Division, is prosecuting the matter.