Toddlers get a life lesson

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Federal prosecutors have bagged a trusted employee who stole $150,000 from a Downtown nursery school.

Eric Hurt, a Jersey City resident and former business manager of Montessori Day School on Third Avenue, pleaded guilty on Nov. 28 to stealing the nursery school funds during 2005 and early 2006.

It was yet one more setback for an already beleaguered institution.

As reported in The Brooklyn Paper in May, the nursery school was squeezed out of its longtime home at the Third Avenue YWCA to make room for affordable housing.

The school responded with plans to purchase its own property on Livingston Street, but those plans fell through thanks to Hurt, who stole the funds Montessori needed to close the deal.

“This was a very sad surprise for most of us,” said Amy Sandgrund-Fischer, the co-president of the school board. “[Hurt] had been a part of our community for over a year.”

Now, rather than expanding, this week the school will divide into two smaller spaces, one on Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, and the other on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope.

“We are hoping to stay in these locations at least for the next couple of years,” said Sandgrund-Fischer. “It takes considerable time to do fundraising and development work.”

The embezzlement only came to light after Hurt was indicted for stealing more than $100,000 from the Hoboken Housing Authority, where he was an accounting manager between 2001 and 2004.

According to federal prosecutors in New Jersey, which investigated the case, “[Hurt] issued salary and bonus payments to himself well in excess of his authorized salary; made unauthorized wire transfers of money from a school bank account to himself; and used the school’s ATM card to make unauthorized withdrawals.”

Hurt, 38, is facing 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his sentencing in April. He could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Sandgrund-Fischer, whose own child attends the school, is trying to be upbeat.

“While this has definitely been a difficult year, it’s a testament to the school that we survived,” she said. “We will be at full capacity at both [of our new] locations. The teachers have done an amazing job.”

Updated 4:26 pm, July 9, 2018
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