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Charity misappropriated funds, Bayside man says

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A Fresh Meadows group aimed at helping pregnant women and young mothers has come under fire from a former officer who has charged that the organization misappropriated funds from its College Point home.

William Lucadamo, who had served as treasurer of Bridge to Life, claimed in a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court in Jamaica that the nonprofit put more than $50,000 intended to fund the College Point location into administrative functions at its Fresh Meadows headquarters.

In an Oct. 1 ruling, Judge Janice Taylor ordered the College Point home to remain open and its board to take care only of administrative expenses until a decision was rendered in the case.

Founded in 1992, Bridge to Life offers several forms of assistance to struggling pregnant women and mothers.

In early 2002, a home for nine new mothers was established at the St. Fidelis parish on 14th Avenue in College Point. Mothers are required to pay one third of their income to rent and do chores in exchange for a supportive environment made up of other mothers and three Bridge to Life staffers.

Maternity and baby clothing are distributed from the College Point home and another location in Astoria. Bridge to Life has administrative offices in Fresh Meadows at Utopia Parkway and 75th Avenue.

As the name of the group suggests, the goal of Bridge to Life is to make it easier for women to choose to raise a child and not have an abortion.

Lucadamo contends that money donated to help the College Point home instead went to the organization’s clothing supply program as well as administrative costs.

“They basically took $100,000 from accounts that were specifically slated for College Point and used $50,000 for College Point and $50,000 for themselves,” Lucadamo said in an interview.

Lucadamo said he decided to file suit against the organization when he was voted off the board after raising questions about the funding.

But Eleanor Ruder, executive director of Bridge to Life, said Lucadamo was fairly voted off the board according to its by-laws.

“He just won’t take no for an answer,” said Ruder, a neighbor of Lucadamo in Bayside.

Ruder also disputed Lucadamo’s math.

“We hired an independent auditor to do a certified audit,” she said. “If there is a difference, it is no where near $50,000. No funds were ever misappropr­iated.”

Taylor’s order to keep the College Point home open until the suit is settled puts Bridge to Life in a precarious financial position. The organization had planned to close its home, and several of its staffers, including Ruder, went a month without pay.

Ruder said her organization could not afford to keep the College Point home open and was asking the court reconsider its position.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” she said.

Lucadamo, however, said he was happy as long as the College Point home remained open.

“As long as they can’t close the home and hire and fire, I don’t care what they do,” he said.

The lawsuit has raised the eyebrows of Bishop Thomas Daily of the Diocese of Brooklyn, whose organization The Cathedral Club of Brooklyn donated $30,000 to Bridge to Life.

“I must admit that I am very much concerned about what apparently are allegations concerning apparent misappropriation of funds at The Bridge to Life Inc.,” Daily wrote to Lucadamo’s attorney, George Faeth.

Ruder, however, was confident her organization would win out in court.

“We’re the only ones who do this, and [Lucadamo] wants to shut us down,” she said. “This is an atrocity. When all is said and done, we will be vindicated.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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