Photo by Christina Santucci
Estelle Cooper
By Joe Anuta

A funeral was held Monday for former Assistant Parks Commissioner Estelle Cooper. The Whitestone resident had been scheduled to appear in court in February as part of a criminal court case, charging that she allegedly stole funds from the nonprofit she once headed. On Monday afternoon, Cooper’s family was set to release a statement about her death, according to a representative of Sinai Chapels in Fresh Meadows, where the funeral was held.

Cooper, who was in her 80s, was accused of stealing $50,000 from Unisphere Inc., a nonprofit that funds upkeep and programming at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Cooper was the head of the nonprofit for years and resigned in December 2011, according to the Queens district attorney.

An accountant who looked over the nonprofit’s 2011 books said he noticed that Cooper had withdrawn cash from ATMs but could not account for where the money went. The accountant was Phil Ragusa, chairman of the Queens Republican Party, and his records eventually made their way to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. Cooper was indicted in July, and her next court appearance was scheduled for Feb. 4, according to court documents.

Cooper resigned from her $107,507 post at city Parks Department in January.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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