The Attorney General’s Office announced a lawsuit today against Kelli Conlin, the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, for allegedly using more than $250,000 in charitable funds for herself.
Conlin used about $75,000 in NARAL Foundation money for expensive shopping trips to Barney’s, Berdorf Goodman and Armani, the lawsuit alleges. She used NARAL money in 2009 to fund a $17,000 summer rental — a five-bedroom house with a tennis court, swimming pool and hot tub. About $12,000 went to nanny services.
And yes, there were big restaurant bills for about $50,000 — including 120 meals of sushi takeout near her Brooklyn home, the lawsuit alleges. Sushi was also an infamous favorite of former Sen. Pedro Espada, who was convicted of using government aid to live his own lavish lifestyle.
Conlin, the pro-choice group’s president for 19 years, pleaded guilty last year in criminal court to falsifying business records, and she agreed to pay $75,000 in restitution.
The civil suit seeks further restitution for NARAL, which is a charity and thus falls under the attorney general’s jurisdiction. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had to recuse himself from the case; his late father, Irwin, had once served on the NARAL board.
“Ms. Conlin betrayed the trust of NARAL’s supporters and donors by using charitable funds to finance her lavish lifestyle,” said the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau Chief Jason Lilien in a statement. “Our office is committed to rooting out corruption in the charitable sector wherever it exists, and we will vigorously pursue those who rip off charities for their own personal gain.
Conlin resigned in January 2011, and NARAL didn’t disclose the reason. Capital Tonight first reported on her troubles in February 2011.
Conlin also charged NARAL’s charitable foundation at least $26,000 for personal travel, $18,500 for personal hotel expenses, including spa treatments, the lawsuit states. She charged over $70,000 for the use of car services, including at least $44,000 to transport Conlin’s children from their home in Brooklyn to school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Updated: From Manhattan DA Cy Vance spokeswoman Joan Vollero:
“As a result of her guilty plea last year, Ms. Conlin has been held accountable by this Office — as a felon — for her criminal misconduct. We are pleased that the Attorney General’s Office will now seek the return of additional funds using its civil enforcement powers.”
Here’s the complaint: