Audit found financial fraud at LI’s Bethany House

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According to a new audit by the Nassau Comptroller’s Office, Bethany House, a Baldwin-based non-profit organization that helps homeless and abused women, has made suspicious overpayments to staff, including its founders, and states. Repeatedly violated the Nepotist Law.

The· 42-page report We have discovered patterns of economic irregularities and inadequate surveillance by Bethany House, which operates homes for women and children in Roosevelt, Baldwin and Belmore.

Sister Amy Kuhnmen, who founded Bethany House with two other Dominica sisters in Amityville in 1978, was paid more than $ 160,000 in benefits without proper documentation and was a member of the Bethany House Board of Directors. I paid the staff and relatives $ 35,000. ..

When Catherine Ryan, who was hired as the secretary-general of a nonprofit, expressed concern about spending practices, she said she had finished, and the nonprofit lacked an understanding of Bethany House’s “mission and core values.” Claimed to be.

“Our research team has discovered a series of nasty discoveries, from lack of oversight to nepotism, suspicious cash payments, and mixing with personal funds,” said Nassau’s accounting auditor Jack Schnilman. I will.

Bethany House’s new leadership said in an audit response that it would reform financial practices, implement biometric systems to verify time, reduce or eliminate benefits, and stop cash payments.

Catherine Heavyside, a spokeswoman for Bethany House, said: “We worked with the staff of the Accounting Auditor to fully resolve each audit recommendation.”

Sister Amy Kuhnmen did not respond to repeated requests for comments.

“The Amityville Sisters St. Dominic and the Bethany House Board of Directors are fully cooperating with the Nassau County Administration,” Sister Peggy Macbetty, Sisters St. Dominic’s priority, said in a statement. “We will continue to support the mission of Bethany House.”

According to the audit, Kuhnmen hired his nephew Brian Kuhnmen as chief operating officer. According to 2017 and 2018 audits, he was paid $ 186,570 and given a Bethany House vehicle, even though he worked only on a part-time schedule.

“There’s nothing to hide here and nothing bad has been done,” said Brian Kuhnmen, who refused to comment on a particular claim.

Auditors discover other violations of the state’s nonprofit revitalization law, including a $ 9,250 payment to another unidentified relative in Kuhnmen and a $ 76,000 financing contract to a Bethany House director’s niece. did.

According to the audit, on August 23, when investigators were completing the audit, the board instructed Kuhnmen to leave Bethany House’s residence and demoted her to a non-voting director of honor. ..

Bethany House began in 1978 when Kuhnmen and two other Dominican sisters rented a small Roosevelt house for $ 275 a month and opened it to the homeless. The name comes from the Bible village where Martha and Mary took care of Jesus’ food and emotional support.

More than 40 years later, Bethany House was expanded to five buildings. In 2019, it provided 26,052 nights of shelter and assistance to 571 families, including 720 children, according to the annual report.

Bethany House receives most of the funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and is distributed through the Nassau Department of Social Welfare. The rest of the money comes from donations and grants.

Newsday Charities, one of Bethany House’s donors, provided a $ 25,000 grant in fiscal year 2019, according to the charity’s annual report.

“As part of our efforts to mitigate the homeless on Long Island, Newsday Charity is one of the many donors to Bethany House,” said Newsday spokeswoman Kim Como. “With all funding, Newsday Charities requires an organization’s detailed explanation of how the funds will be used and a follow-up report after the funds have been paid.”

The auditor found a $ 160,000 unreported benefit to the IRS that was issued to Kuhnmen through a check she signed herself. The check was deposited in an account in the name of the Order, which acted as Kuhnmen’s personal bank account, the auditor said.

Kuhnmen will receive a fixed monthly benefit for living expenses and a second monthly benefit as a refund for weekend hours and night shifts.

“The auditor was unable to ascertain the days / hours worked to justify the additional compensation received in the form of benefits,” the investigator said.

Bethany House said Kuhnmen’s benefits will be reduced and will end at the end of the year.

Auditors also found improper cash payments made by charitable funds such as pet food, veterinary clinic bills, flowers, movie tickets, and genetic testing kits. A small amount of cash was used to pay for Christmas gifts, meals and public relations, according to the report.

Ryan, who was hired as secretary-general in March 2018, said the audit was “just a quick glance” at the financial problems of nonprofits.

“It was very clear to me that there were no restrictions on spending,” said Ryan of Rockville Center. “There was no check and balance … and when I brought my concerns to the board, I was answered with a dismissal.”

Another secretary-general, who was hired in April, resigned four months later, “due to activities against other nonprofits,” she worked for, according to the report. The chairman of the board and two other directors have also resigned.

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