Ex-CFO for holding company admits stealing $429,000

Christopher Cortese, 54, of Rockville Centre. Christopher Cortese, 54, of Rockville Centre. Photo Credit: NCDA, 2013

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A Rockville Centre man admitted Wednesday that he stole $429,000 from a financial firm where he was chief financial officer and used the proceeds for trips, car expenses and payments to two girlfriends, prosecutors said.

Christopher Cortese, 54, pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny before Judge Philip Grella of Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola.

The judge indicated he would impose a prison term of 1½ to 4½ years in prison and set an amount of restitution to be determined by the Probation Department when Cortese is sentenced Dec. 6, District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement.

Rice said she recommended a term of 2 to 6 years in prison and full restitution of $429,555.84, but her recommendation does not have any legal force because Cortese pleaded to the most serious charge.

"Mr. Cortese stole almost half a million dollars in order to enrich his lifestyle and give away what didn't belong to him," Rice said in the statement. "White-collar crimes like these hurt our economy and victimize the innocent employees of companies that are defrauded."

She said Cortese had been chief financial officer since May 2005 for Kainos Partners Holding Co. LLC, an upstate corporation that has owned and operated more than 50 Dunkin' Donuts franchises.

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She said the company began investigating Cortese in January 2009 after discovering irregularities that included $53,500 for a home office, $60,000 in gift cards and more than $100,000 in trips, meals and other expenses. He was fired the month after the probe began, Rice said.

Cortese used company funds to hire two girlfriends -- who were not identified -- as consultants, Rice said. He funneled $110,000 to one woman for technology services that were never performed, made the first car lease payment for a Mercedes-Benz for her and secured company health and dental benefits for her, she said.

Another girlfriend received $20,000 for services never performed, Rice said.

Cortese's lawyer, Glenn F. Hardy of Garden City, said his client "made the right decision by pleading guilty, and the amount of restitution is still in dispute."

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