Grand larceny is at its core a crime of theft. It can be anything from pickpocketing to outright theft of property from the federal government by diverting public money to their private accounts. Such was the case with Earnestine Russell, a former executive director of Baychester Youth Council in the Bronx, New York.
She was recently sentenced after pleading guilty to charges of Grand Larceny. She admitted to stealing public money which had been earmarked to support various after-school programs for middle schoolers. She was initially indicted on second-degree grand larceny and second-degree criminal possession of stolen property.
According to the court documents, Ms. Russell ran the Baychester Youth Council since the 1980s. She received a federal grant of over $2.7 million for five years to develop a Community Learning Center. When she was audited by the State Comptroller’s Office in 2012, it was discovered that she had used over $250,000.00 for inappropriate expenses (including a home movie theater) and the grant was revoked.
After this discovery, the DA’s Office in the Bronx began investigating and found more inappropriate expenses. The grant money was deposited and withdrawn through multiple accounts. Ms. Russell had, on multiple occasions, withdrew cash, wrote checks to cash for herself or family members, and made wire transfers.
She had gambled more than $150,000.00 from 2009 to 2011. When she was pressed by investigators, she reportedly told them that she could use the money however she saw fit. Her sentence is one year in jail with restitution in the amount of $61,098.00.
In Manhattan, the DA’s office has its own upcoming grand larceny prosecution. Anna Sorokin is one of the ‘fake heiresses’ being charged with grand larceny, after being accused of swindling thousands of dollars from banks, hotels and businesses, as well as socialites and other wealthy individuals within the New York social scene.
She posed as a German heiress with a massive fortune and is accused of scamming over $275,000.00 from various entities. She had misrepresented her ability to pay various loans to be used to fund her business ideas, primarily redeveloping a building in New York and forming an arts foundation.
After making a significantly late payment of over $30,000.00 to a hotel she had been living at for a month, they were allegedly unable to acquire a good credit card for her and locked her out of her room. She is accused of submitting documents that demonstrated a net worth of €60 million to secure a $25 to $35 million loan.
Various banks and individuals also received fake wire-transfer receipts, and deposited two bad checks to fund a trip to California, where she was arrested and returned to New York on charges of grand larceny, attempted grand larceny, and theft of services.
Jury selection for her trial is scheduled to begin March 20. A Russian-born immigrant, she could also face deportation if found guilty. The rights to her story have apparently been sold to Netflix, where producer Shonda Rhimes is expected to create a film based on her life.