A Whitestone man who became the center of a scandal earlier this year when it came to light that he was working with children at area Catholic schools despite being a registered sex offender has pleaded guilty to forgery charges, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said last week.
Joseph Denice was arrested Jan. 13 and arraigned Jan. 14 on two counts of grand larceny, one charge of petit larceny and one charge of criminal possession of a forged document for allegedly bilking St. Mel’s Church, at 154-24 26th Ave., out of thousands of dollars by forging and cashing five checks totaling more than $7,700 that belonged to the St. Mel’s Religious Education Office in December 2010, Brown said.
On May 17, Denice pleaded guilty in Queens Supreme Court to two counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument.
Sentencing for Denice was scheduled for Wednesday and acting Justice Pauline Mullings said she would sentence him to five to 10 years.
Denice admitted finding starter checks in the St. Mel’s Religious Education Office in December and writing out five of the checks, totaling $7,707.22, in his name, Brown said. He then told his mother they were paychecks and told her to deposit them in her bank account, according to Brown.
Denice also admitted placing five anonymous calls to 911 last year, falsely reporting either an odor of gas or fire at locations near his home, causing the FDNY to respond to each of the five unfounded calls, the DA said.
He went on to admit making anonymous calls to the city Administration for Children’s Services in October 2009 and March 2010 alleging that two young boys were being neglected in one case and abused in another, prompting the agency to conduct investigations into each case, Brown said.
“The defendant has admitted his guilt and acknowledged that he used his position as a trusted volunteer to divert monies for his own personal gain,” the DA said.
Denice was convicted of and jailed for sexual abuse in June 2010, but he passed a background check requested by the diocese before beginning his volunteer work at schools, including St. Mel’s School in Flushing, St. Kevin’s Church in Bayside, St. Kevin’s School in Flushing and St. Luke’s in Whitestone, in about 2007, according to the Brooklyn Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, which includes Queens congregations.
The scandal erupted in the months leading up to the resignation of the Rev. Christopher Turczany of St. Mel’s Church, who was never accused of any improper actions during the Denice scandal. Though the church did not say the scandal played into his decision to step down, it was a stain on its reputation.
After serving six months in jail for fondling and sexually assaulting a child in 2009, Denice volunteered at the schools but they never found out about his sex offense because he accepted a plea deal that allowed him to be registered as a Level 1 sex offender rather than the Level 2 designation the crimes usually carry, according to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).
Level 1 sex offenders are not listed on the sex offender registry and the schools were never contacted about his conviction. The diocese barred him from volunteering at its schools when parents raised concerns about his allegedly contacting a minor through Facebook.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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