Roughly two years after being arrested, Leon Austern was sentenced by Judge Felice Muraca on Aug. 15, to one to three years in prison for stealing more than $327,000 from the owners of a strip shopping mall in Hewlett. He must also pay restitution in the amount of $163,636.90.
Austern, 71, pleaded guilty on Sept. 8 of last year before Supreme Court Justice William Donnino to grand larceny second-degree. The investigation began in August 2014, after the District Attorney’s office received a complaint from one of the owners.
Prosecutors said that Austern spent the stolen money to pay for personal expenses including loan payments, insurance, legal fees, investments, restaurants, health-related products, food, beverages, gasoline, household appliances, pool maintenance, utilities and storage fees.
Harbro Realty Co., LLC, owns the strip mall with five commercial tenants. From May 3, 2010 to Dec. 18, 2012, Austern embezzled a net amount of $327,273.80 from Harbro by diverting checks drawn by Harbro’s tenants for rent and taxes to two bank accounts that he created in the name of Harbro. The accounts were opened secretly without the permission of the company. For his services, he was entitled to receive three and a half percent of the gross rents collected from its tenants.
“This defendant stole from innocent business owners and used the money to pay for his daily expenses,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas stated in a news release. “With all the pressures on small business owners, the last thing they should worry is having employees and contractors stealing from them. My office remains committed to prosecuting fraud cases and returning stolen money to victims.”