The former head of a Flatbush Avenue merchant group serving Park Slope and Prospect Heights embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the group and used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle, according to prosecutors.
Sharon Davidson, former director of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District, faces charges of stealing $85,691 from the organization’s coffers and using her filthy lucre to buy Beyonce tickets, clothes, shoes, jewelry, and more. Cops arrested her at her Long Island home on Monday. The borough’s top lawman blasted Davidson for allegedly taking advantage of the businesses that pay the group to provide supplemental trash pickup, street sweeping, decoration, and advertising.
“The 150 small business owners who joined the North Flatbush BID paid into it with the expectation that those funds would be used to promote their businesses,” District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement. “Instead, the defendant allegedly used the BID’s accounts as her own personal piggy bank, spending nonstop on everything from airline tickets to chocolates. She will now be held accountable.”
Davidson pleaded not guilty on March 16 on charges of grand larceny, forgery, and scheming to defraud, and was released without bail. She is due back in court on May 13. She maintains her innocence, her lawyer told the news website DNAinfo.
“She looks forward to vindicating herself in court,” Morris Shamuil said to a reporter for the outlet.
The merchant group represents Flatbush Avenue businesses from Atlantic Avenue to Grand Army Plaza. In her post as director, Davidson drew a salary of $30,000, but she allegedly padded that by withdrawing cash from the group’s account, writing fraudulent checks to herself, depositing checks meant for the organization directly into her own bank account, according to court documents.
As executive director of the group Davidson had control of the group’s payroll services, bank accounts, and credit cards, and used them liberally on personal expenses, prosecutors say. Davidson spent $600 on the Beyonce tickets, $4,000 at the women’s retailer Talbots, $3,000 on the grocery-delivery service FreshDirect, $400 on manicures and pedicures, and used Paypal to buy $13,000 worth of clothing, shoes, and jewelry, prosecutors charge.
The organization’s president said in a statement that prosecutors’ summary of the case “speaks for itself.”
“The North Flatbush Avenue BID is grateful to the NYC Department of Investigation and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for diligently pursuing this case and to the NYC Department of Small Business Services for their continued support,” Regina Cahill said. “The board of directors is hopeful that the organization will recover the loss and that justice will be served.”
She also falsely claimed to be unemployed from November 2011 to February 2014, halting her own paychecks and collecting about $5,000 in unemployment insurance at the same time as she was allegedly bilking her organization, according to the indictment. The unemployment claim was discovered during an audit of the group’s finances by the Department of Small Business Services, the District Attorney’s Office said.
In 2013, the Business Improvement District made $154,000 in revenue, much of which comes from fees paid by member businesses, but the group ended that year in the red by about $45,000. Davidson abruptly resigned from her position in 2013, according to reports.
Representatives of Davidson and the North Flatbush Business Improvement District did not return several calls for comment, as did several member businesses.