NEW YORK (WPIX)—A Queens woman accused of running a sham car donation program pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to donors and pocketing a majority of the $2 million in funds raised by the charity, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.
Shoaba Bakhsh, of Queens-based "Hope for the Disabled Kids, Inc.," initially promised donors that over 90% of donations would go to help disabled children. However, an investigation led by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office, found that no funds were used for any legitimate charitable purposes from 2007 to 2009.
"This individual manipulated donors and exploited children with serious medical needs in order to enrich herself and her family," said Attorney General Cuomo. "As a result of her actions, millions of dollars that should have gone to help disabled children were instead spent on department store bills and real estate."
On its web site, 'Hope for the Disabled Kids' claims that funds "will be utilized to benefit disabled children by purchasing medical equipment, help pay medical expenses for families who are unable to afford them and purchase books, toys, games and food during the holidays to distribute to children in hospitals."
However, according to Cuomo, Bakhsh instead spent the funds on herself and her family, which included $500,000 in real estate purchases, payments on two different Macy's credit card accounts, and school tuition for her children.
In addition, a total of nearly $250,000 was deposited into her personal checking account between 2007 and 2009. During that time, she apparently was unemployed other than her job at 'Hope for the Disabled Kids,' which reported paying her less than $50,000 annually.
Officials say Bakhsh destroyed documents and filed false paperwork in hopes of covering up the fraudlent activity.
The South Ozone Park resident pleaded guilty in New York County Supreme Court to one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree and two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree.
Officials say the sham organization will be shut down immediately.
Bakhsh is expected to be sentenced on September 23.