MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the arrest of a Florida woman for allegedly stealing more than $152,000 from a Suffolk County-based charity.
Tina Ruggiero, 55, of Jupiter, Florida, was arraigned yesterday before Acting Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington on a charge of Grand Larceny in the 2nd Degree (a C felony). The defendant was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court on July 9. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison.
“This defendant agreed to do work for a charity golf outing, but instead allegedly used the proceeds of that fundraiser as a personal piggybank,” DA Singas said. “More than $152,000 was raised for youth activities and my office will use every tool at our disposal to make sure that money is repaid.”
DA Singas said that Tina Ruggiero, a former Nassau County resident, is the principal of a charitable organization, the Ruggiero Strong Family Foundation.
The defendant entered into an agreement in August 2015 with the head of a group organizing a celebrity golf outing. Ruggiero was to get paid $15,000 for providing services for the outing and was instructed to hold the funds raised from the golf outing in a segregated bank account in Nassau County because the defendant’s foundation had 501 (c) 3 status with the Internal Revenue Service.
After the fundraiser was held, the organizing group received IRS approval for their own charitable foundation, the Peconic Hockey Foundation, Inc. and requested that the money held by Ruggiero be transferred to the charity.
The funds were raised to support youth activities related to hockey and ice skating, and for the potential development of a hockey rink in Suffolk County.
Between August 28, 2015, and January 20, 2016, the defendant received $208,303.35 and paid $55,552.20 in expenses associated with the golf outing. Instead of paying the net proceeds to the organization, she allegedly embezzled $152,751.15 and spent the money – which was held in a Roslyn-based Capital One Bank account – on cars, restaurants, nail salons, hotels, movie theaters and other personal expenses.
The defendant was indicted by a Nassau County grand jury and arrested by members of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. Ruggiero was extradited to New York on May 31 for arraignment.
Assistant District Attorney Peter Mancuso, Deputy Chief of DA Singas’ Financial Crimes Bureau, is prosecuting the case. The defendant is represented by Mindy Plotkin, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.