A Rockland County man has been accused of bilking a union’s health and retirement funds of $3.4 million by approving phony invoices in a kickback scheme.
Enrico Rubano, 48, of Tappan, was arrested on Jan. 19 and charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Also arrested was Shivanand Maharaj, 36, a Cresskill, New Jersey consultant who is accused of submitting fake invoices.
Rubano was co-head of IT services at AFTRA Retirement Fund in Manhattan, which provides investments and benefits for actors, broadcasters and voice professionals. He describes himself in an online profile as a health insurance IT executive who has cut costs that saves his employer $1.3 million a year, refined security and made electronic claims files with vendors more accurate.
A man who answered the telephone at Rubano’s home declined to talk. No contact information could be found for Maharaj.
Rubano and Maharaj diverted money, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, that should have gone to help pay retirement and health care benefits.
AFTRA has notified its insurance carrier, a spokesman said, and will try to recover its losses. He said the losses will not have a material impact on the organization or put the benefits at risk.
The two men allegedly controlled or owned companies that submitted invoices for IT services that were never performed or that had already been done by employees or other vendors.
Rubano had authority to approve invoices for payments to vendors, according to a criminal complaint written by U.S. Postal Inspector Ashley Borofsky.
He is accused of approving hundreds of false invoices, from 2008 to late 2015, for a consulting company controlled by Maharaj and a company controlled by an unidentified cooperating witness.
The witness has been working with law enforcement since October, according to the complaint, in the hope of achieving leniency. The U.S. attorney agreed this month not to prosecute if the witness cooperates and provides truthful information.
Typically, the complaint says, the false invoices were kept below $5,000. They provided no supporting documentation, scope of work or accounting of hours worked.
The AFTRA Retirement Fund paid $1.4 million to Maharaj’s company over a six-year period, according to the criminal complaint, and that company paid $200,000 to a company controlled by Rubano.
In 2011, Rubano and Maharaj allegedly asked the witness to form an IT company to do work for the fund. The witness had no background or experience in IT services. They would provide someone to do the work and the witness would keep 30 percent of each invoice after a portion was deducted for the worker.
The fund paid the witness’ company about $640,000 over a four-year period. About $500,000 in cash was withdrawn, the complaint states, and paid to Rubano or Maharaj in person or deposited in Maharaj’s bank account.
In June 2013, for example, the witness deposited a check from the fund. The next day, Maharaj allegedly texted the witness, “You doing the deposit today?” and the witness replied, “Yeh.” The same day, $2,360 was deposited in Maharaj’s account.
On another occasion, the complaint states, Maharaj texted, “Papi wants to know if you can do the deposit this am Mexicans need burritos.” The witness explained to the postal inspector that “papi” is Rubano” and “Mexicans need burritos” meant Rubano wants money.
AFTRA discovered evidence of unauthorized expenditures during an internal review of vendors, spokesman James Wilkinson said, and notified federal law enforcement.
“AFTRA Retirement has rigorous internal controls and strong fraud prevention procedures,” he said. “We regularly conduct internal reviews of operations to protect our participants.”
The cooperating witness kept check stubs that included notes reflecting his 30 percent cut. When he told Maharaj about the stubs in October, the complaint says, Maharaj told him to destroy them because they could land everyone in jail.
The criminal complaint refers to other possible conspirators and companies, “known and unknown,” and Bharara’s news release said the investigation is continuing.