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Bookkeeper pleads guilty in Electchester fraud

Skolnick, who is also a resident of the complex, was charged with grand larceny, criminal possession of forged instruments, falsifying business records and scheme to defraud, according to officials of the Queens district attorney's office.

"I made restitution. It was a stupid thing to do, but it's too late to cry about it now," said Skolnick in a recent telephone interview. She contends that a low $200-a-week salary and climbing medical and tuition bills led her to steal the funds.

Skolnick, 77, employed as the company's bookkeeper for 20 years, wrote refund checks beginning in 1992 from Electchester to 25 fictitious residents who she claimed were vacating apartments, the DA said. The checks, ranging in amounts from $3,000 to $6,000, were then deposited directly into an account Skolnick controlled under the name "Diana Cohen," using her own address and Social Security number, according to the district attorney's office.

An alert bank employee noticed the unusual double endorsement on the checks and notified Electchester officials, the DA said.

Skolnick entered her plea before acting Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey D. Liebowitz, who sentenced her to a three-year conditional discharge in addition to paying the $203,000 in restitution.

Representatives of Electchester indicated that a civil suit will be filed against Skolnick for additional funds allegedly taken. They also plan to evict Skolnick and her husband, Herman Skolnick, from their residence.

"This case will result in Electchester receiving restitution for over $200,000 in funds embezzled by the defendant," Brown said in a statement. "It is always disappointing to see an employee who is in a position of trust betray that trust."

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