SE Queens nonprofit prez arrested on fraud charges

Former Sen. Shirley Huntley leaves Brooklyn federal court earlier this year after she is sentenced to 366 days on embezzlement charges. Van Holmes, president of a southeast Queens nonprofit that received thousands of dollars in member items from Huntley and four borough councilmen, was charged Tuesday with embezzling taxpayer dollars.
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In the latest installment of the sweeping corruption probes to hit Queens, the president of a Laurelton nonprofit that received thousands of dollars in member items from several borough lawmakers was arrested Tuesday and charged with pocketing the cash, authorities said.

Van Holmes, president of the Young Leaders Institute Inc., was charged with filing false paperwork to cover up more than $85,000 in city and state tax dollars he allegedly stole from the nonprofit, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

“Van Holmes pocketed tens of thousands of state and city taxpayer dollars meant to help low-income students and their families,” the AG said. “The men and women elected to public office and put in charge of public service organizations have a special responsibility to protect the public interest. Working together with [state] Comptroller [Tom] DiNapoli, we intend to use every tool in our arsenal to crack down on anyone who abuses the public trust.”

Schneiderman said that from 2007-10, Holmes got three member items sponsored by convicted former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, who will begin serving a 366-day sentence this month after pleading guilty in federal court earlier this year to a similar embezzlement scheme.

Huntley also pleaded guilty to covering up the theft of taxpayer dollars from another nonprofit after Schneiderman’s office brought charges against her last year, and she has accused him of unfairly targeting her.

Sen. James Sanders (D-Jamaica), who left the City Council after ousting Huntley from her seat last year, and Councilmen Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), all allocated money to Holmes’ nonprofit in the past several years.

Schneiderman’s office said Holmes’ alleged theft of about $11,000 in city money is the focus of the investigation, which he categorized as ongoing, and said it would be “inappropri­ate” to presume the lawmakers had acted improperly simply by setting aside items for the nonprofit.

Comrie earmarked $3,500 for the nonprofit in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, but his item from last year is listed as “pending.”

He said he had already put the item in the budget when city investigators raised red flags about the group.

Weprin, whose records show he allocated $5,000 in each of the past two years to the nonprofit, released a statement saying he had canceled the checks after he learned of possible misconduct.

“I do not know Mr. Holmes and have had no involvement with the organizati­on,” he said. “Last year, I rescinded funding for the group when I was informed that there was a problem with its finances. The organization received no money from my City Council discretionary funds for the last two years.”

Sanders gave $3,500 in 2012 and Wills, Huntley’s former chief of staff, allocated $17,000 in 2012. Wills was subpoenaed by the AG’s office last year as part of an investigation into $33,000 in state funds distributed by Huntley to a nonprofit he ran. No charges have been filed.

Holmes was charged with grand larceny, forgery, falsifying business records and offering a false filing instrument, Schneiderman said. He faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted on the top count.

While state authorities have been bringing charges against lawmakers, federal investigators have been conducting their own probe, leading to the arrest of Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) and Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) in April.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 2:44 am, July 19, 2013
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Reader feedback

none of your biz from jamaica says:
I wouldnt be surprised if some of these members are the leaders of street gangs in SE Queens! They are thugs in suits. Shame on all of you for defrauding the system. This was not Martin Luther Kings intention to bring black politicians together and committ federal crimes. Shame on all of you!
July 20, 2013, 3:06 am
none of your biz from jamaica says:
You are a disgrace to the human race!!
July 20, 2013, 3:07 am
grr from USA says:
Democrats are a disgrace!! No wonder why Republicans hate them!!
July 23, 2013, 9:37 pm
wow from USA says:
Why isint the State attorneys office investigating, why- so many gangs in the South Jamaica Projects, are selling drugs right in front of the projects management office? Why arent you investigating why there is so many black on black killings? Why arent you investigating the bullets being shot out the windows of the South Jamaica Projects and when cops are called, they are clueless as to where the bullets are coming from? Why cant you investigate the federal government who run the South Jamaica Projects? Why dont you investigate the illegal activites in the South Jamaica Projects that are caught on surveillance? Is it too much to handle? Your government is a disgrace and a joke and you really dont care. Why isint FBI investigating the State attorneys office?
July 27, 2013, 5:05 am
grr from queens says:
The state attorneys office should investigate why Wills donated $100,000 to PS160 and where did the money go? Its suspicious to me thst in light of the corruption with Huntley, Smith, Holmes and Wills himself, the principle of the school, Mr. Garden, mysteriously resigns. I wonder why.
July 28, 2013, 10:47 pm

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