A Florida woman was arrested Monday for allegedly stealing more than $152,000 from a Suffolk County-based charity and using a Roslyn bank account for the funds, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.
Tina Ruggiero, 55, of Juniper, Florida, was arraigned Monday before acting Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington on a charge of second-degree grand larceny, a C-level felony. Ruggiero was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court on July 9.
If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of five to 15 years in prison.
“This defendant agreed to do work for a charity golf outing, but instead allegedly used the proceeds of that fundraiser as a personal piggybank,” Singas said. “More than $152,000 was raised for youth activities, and my office will use every tool at our disposal to make sure that money is repaid.”
Singas said Ruggiero, a former Nassau County resident, is the principal of a charitable organization, the Ruggiero Strong Family Foundation.
In August 2015, Ruggiero made an agreement with the head of a group, who has not been named, organizing a celebrity golf outing. She provided services for the day for $15,000 and was instructed to hold the funds raised from the outing in a Nassau County bank account because Ruggiero’s foundation was listed as a nonprofit organization with the Internal Revenue Service.
After the fundraiser, the organizing group received approval to form the Peconic Hockey Foundation Inc. as a charitable foundation and requested the funds held by Ruggiero from the fundraiser be transferred back to the group.
Singas said the funds were originally raised to support youth hockey and ice skating as well as for the potential development of a hockey rink in Suffolk County.
Between Aug. 28, 2015, and Jan. 20, 2016, Ruggiero received $208,303 and paid $55,552 in expenses for the celebrity golf outing. Instead of returning the remaining funds to the Peconic Hockey Foundation, Singas said, Ruggiero allegedly embezzled $152,751 held in a Roslyn Capital One Bank account and spent the money on cars, restaurants, nail salons, hotels, movie theaters and other personal expenses.
Ruggiero was arrested by the Martin County sheriff’s office in Florida and was extradited to New York on May 31.
Attempts to reach Ruggiero’s attorney, Mindy Plotkin, were unavailing.