Schechter School ex-CFO found guilty of money laundering in $8.4 million theft

Schechter School ex-CFO found guilty of money laundering in $8.4 million theft
The Schechter School of Long Island in Williston Park. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

A jury convicted David Ostrove, the former chief financial officer at Schechter School of Long Island, of first-degree grand larceny and money laundering for stealing $8.4 million from school accounts to finance his luxurious life, including the purchase of five homes on Fire Island.

“While David Ostrove was entrusted to manage this money to benefit the children of the Schechter School, he was secretly lining his own pockets,” Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney said in a statement.

The 52-year-old West Islip man faces up to 25 years in prison and awaits sentencing in the county jail. Ostrove will be sentenced by state Supreme Court Justice John Collins in Riverhead on April 17.

Defense attorney Ralph Franco Jr. said the court will give them “an opportunity to move to set aside the verdict,” for which he is “optimistic.”

Ostrove worked at the Schechter School, a private Jewish school located in Williston Park, for more than a decade. He is accused of funneling school funds to his personal bank accounts through digital money transfer applications PayPal and Stripe over eight years.

The disgraced former CFO was charged with spending the stolen money on a host of luxuries, including the purchase of five homes on Fire Island in four years, two Mercedes Benz vehicles, a 1965 Mustang, a 2021 Lincoln Navigator and collectible coins, the Suffolk County DA’s office said.

“The Schechter School administration put complete trust in [Ostrove] to conduct financial transactions on behalf of and in the best interest of the Schechter School and its students,” ADA Jessica Lightstone told the jury. “The defendant violated that trust.”

Lightstone said Ostrove made 786 transfers from Schechter School business accounts to his personal PayPal and bank accounts from 2014 to 2022. Eventually, PayPal froze the school’s account, said Lightstone.

Ostrove continued to make transfers from a school Stripe account to a personal bank account, Lightstone said.

The defense did not call any witnesses during more than two weeks of testimony, while 15 prosecution witnesses spoke to Ostrove’s money laundering.

The Suffolk County DA launched an investigation after being notified by PayPal officials of potential fraud, said Detective and Investigator George Bean.

Bean said when he first approached Ostrove in March 2022, Ostrove claimed the Fire Island homes were purchased as “personal investments.” The detective’s investigation connected the purchase of the Fire Island properties with funds from Ostrove’s personal accounts to corporations registered to his home address, the detective said.

Lightstone said Ostrove used school funds to make upgrades to the properties, raking in more than $600,000 in rental income between 2018 and 2022. Ostrove also purchased with school funds a $15,000 baseball card, $10,000 coin set and $8,000 Olympic gold metal, according to investigators.

Prosecutors said Ostrove first stole money from the school on March 24, 2014, when he moved $33,000 from his personal PayPal to a Bank of America account.

The next day, Ostrove used $29,500 to buy a 1965 Ford Mustang, later purchasing a $55,000 Mercedes-Benz SUV for his wife and a $47,000 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan for his daughter, according to court records.

A month after Bean first approached Ostrove, Ostrove was suspended from his job as chief financial and technology officer and director of operations at the school, said Bean. Ostrove was arrested in July 2022.

Ostrove could be seen removing binders from the school business office in surveillance videos played at the trial, binders that were set to be reviewed by investigators the next day. These videos were filmed more than a week after Ostrove’s suspension.

After being made aware of the investigation, Ostrove transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars into a school account, according to Lightstone.

The Schechter School has accused Ostrove of stealing $11.7 million from the school in a separate civil claim filed in January. The school is seeking monetary damages of more than $35 million, according to a school notice.

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