Federal prosecutors on Friday charged a Staten Island couple who bled more than more than $2.5 million in government funds from a food program meant for financing nutritious meals for preschoolers.
Ziming Shen and Joanna Fan, who run the Red Apple Child Development Center preschool chain, are accused of fraudulently taking money from the federally-funded program by way of inflating the number of students enrolled in the New York City centers.
In 2009, Red Apple told the federal government that there were 188 children enrolled in the centers, which are located in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queen. They also said those children ate 4,700 meals. However, the centers' records showed that there were actually only 116 children.
Members of the media reviewed a criminal complaint unsealed on Friday in which prosecutors allege that the couple took the money over five years from accounts at the nonprofit Red Apple Child Development Center preschool chain.
Fan, also known as Xiao Ping, is the executive director.
The complaint states that the couple of putting funds in their personal coffers, using it to make mortgage payments on several Manhattan condominiums and for private business interests.
Those interests include Preschool of America Inc., a chain of about a dozen for-profit preschools in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, according to The New York Times.
Authorities have accused Fan of using $200,000 of the federal funds to make payments on three condos she owns in Manhattan, Lisa Barretti, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told the New York Daily News.
She also also transferred some $300,000 from Red Apple's lunch money account to the account of the for-profit school she operated.
Fan acknowledged that she had taken the money, but stated that she had 'borrowed' it, Barretti states in the complaint.