The operators of nine child care facilities – seven in Brooklyn and two in Staten Island – were charged last Friday with submitting false documents to the city to cover up a slew of health and safety problems, according to Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation Mark Peters, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, and Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, Jr.
At the centers, which served about 400 children, investigators said they found a long list of egregious conditions, including rat droppings, poison, a mountain of trash, and a fire alarm falling off the wall, the Daily News reported. Additionally, the DOI said they discovered owners had submitted fake educational degrees, forged medical records, and falsified letters stating employees had been trained in child abuse identification.
The city recently closed four of the centers:
- Gnomiki Day Care, Inc., 2221 Ocean Avenue, closed due to the site’s violation history, city officials said.
- Next to Home, 1123 Flatbush Avenue, was shuttered due to a city Department of Buildings vacate order issued in response to multiple DOB and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene violations.
- Next to Home, 1159 Flatbush Avenue was closed because investigators said the program had been operating under an expired DOB certificate of occupancy.
- One of a Kind Child Care, 6318 Amboy Road, Staten Island, ended operations after DOHMH petitioned to revoke the permit.
At the remaining five sites:
- Next to Home, 5566 Kings Highway, was “never leased and never provided services to children,” the DOI said
- ABC Little Star, 2345 85th Street, is still operating and city officials said DOHMH inspected it this week, finding no new violations.
- Gnomiki Day Care, Inc., Group Family Day Care, 2623 Ocean Avenue, has been recommended for closure.
- Next to Home, 353 Ocean Avenue, closed after the owner stopped operations, city officials said.
- One of a Kind Child Care, a group family daycare operating at 6306 Amboy Road in Staten Island, is operating, but the owner that was arrested will be excluded from the program, officials said.
The site owners who were arrested were:
- Viktoriya Federovich, 38, of Brooklyn, was the owner of Gnomiki Day Care, Inc. She was charged with presenting fraudulent documents to the city, including two Certificates of Completion for Identification and Reporting of Child Abuse and Maltreatment for an assistant teacher and a volunteer, the DOI said.
- Elena Kaplan, 53, of Brooklyn, was the owner ABC Little Star Day Care, and, according to the DOI’s investigation, she allegedly submitted a number of false documents to the city, including a a fake public school teacher certificate for herself and state Nurses Association Certificates of Completion for various members of the staff confirming they had received training in identifying child abuse, when, in fact, they allegedly had not, the city officials said.
- Owen Larman, 41, of Brooklyn, a convicted felon who was found guilty of operating a $12 million mortgage fraud scheme in 2007 and who was also charged in this case with stealing close to $60,000 in public funds. He was the owner and operator of Next to Home Child Care, which provided services at three locations in the borough. Next to Home also obtained a registration to operate a fourth child care program at 5566 Kings Highway, but the DOI said this site did not actually provide any services.
- Gina Schiavo, 44, of Staten Island, was the owner of One of a King Child Care. According to the DOI, she allegedly introduced an individual to a DOHMH inspector under another teacher’s name and fraudulently provided documents with the name and qualifications of the teacher. When the inspector questioned the individual about her identity, Schiavo allegedly admitted that the individual was using another person’s name.
“These defendants forged and falsified documents in order to cover up safety risks and steal money intended for actual child care, as charged,” Peters said in a prepared statement. “Our investigations underscore the importance of continuing to vigorously police the integrity of the city’s child care systems, an effort that is very much continuing.”
In his statement to the press, Thompson too issued harsh words for the defendants.
“Each day parents throughout the city count on child care providers to protect the safety of their children,” he said. “It is disgraceful that greedy operators would circumvent safety provisions for their own benefit. Our parents and children deserve better and that’s why we worked so closely with the Department of Investigation on these cases.”