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DA charges employees, vendors stole from Mets

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The Mets finished the season ranked 9th in the National League in stolen bases, but a runaway contingent inside the club’s front office allegedly set a new franchise record for theft over the past few years.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced Thursday the arrest and indictment of six people — four former team employees and two vendors — in connection with the theft of nearly $2 million between 1994 and 2000 from the Mets’ parent company, Sterling Doubleday Enterprises.

The defendants, including suspected ringleader Russell Richardson, a 17-year Mets’ employee who became the club’s technical services director in 1995, are accused of carrying out five office product schemes involving bribes, kickbacks and other illegal payments, fake companies, fraudulent invoices, phantom merchandise and inflated prices.

Richardson, 46, of Hempstead, L.I., allegedly received $600,00 in illegal payments during the six-year period, the DA said.

Haim Shaked, 47, a computer equipment vendor who lives in Brooklyn, allegedly submitted bogus invoices for phantom merchandise, received more than $1 million in payments and paid Richardson kickbacks of nearly $340,000 over a five-year period, according to Brown.

If convicted, both Richardson and Shaked face up to 25 years in prison.

“The key player in the alleged rip-off was a trusted employee of the baseball organization who was responsible for approving purchases of data processing, telephone equipment and services, office supplies and printing services,” Brown said of Richardson. “He had a very substantial role within the Mets organization.”

All six defendants surrendered to authorities last Thursday morning and later pleaded not guilty before Justice Joseph Grosso in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens.

The three other former Mets employees charged in the case are Theresa Artis, 46, of Jackson Heights; Glen Grilli, 42, of Stony Brook, L.I.; and Thomas Doyle, 41, of Miller Place, L.I. The other vendor is Richard Joselit, 49, of Boynton Beach, Fla. The four defendants facing lesser charges could each receive up to seven years in jail if convicted.

Artis, identified by Brown as a friend of Richardson and a former seasonal employee with the Mets’ ticket operation, allegedly owned a fictitious computer supply company. Court documents claim that Richardson submitted fraudulent invoices from the company totaling $350,000 for equipment never received and took nearly $145,000 in kickbacks from Artis.

The DA’s office launched an investigation after receiving information from the baseball club about purchasing irregularities discovered during an internal audit. Brown said detectives analyzed thousands of documents and records in the past two years.

The case is the latest in a series of bad news for the beleaguered baseball club.

Mets owner Fred Wilpon fired manager Bobby Valentine last week after the team finished last in the National League East. Allegations of marijuana use by players created distractions since surfacing in August.

The DA’s office is also investigating pitcher Grant Roberts’ accusation that his former girlfriend, Jodi Turner, tried to extort money from him before releasing a picture of Roberts smoking pot to a local newspaper.

Reach reporter Joe Whalen by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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