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DA: Florida woman stole more than $150G from Suffolk charity

Tina Ruggiero, 55, of Jupiter, Fla., stole money

Tina Ruggiero, 55, of Jupiter, Fla., stole money from a Suffolk charity, prosecutors said Tuesday. Credit: NCDA

A former Roslyn resident embezzled more than $150,000 from a Suffolk County youth hockey charity and spent the money on cars, nail salons, hotels and restaurants, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Tina Ruggiero, 55, of Jupiter, Florida, was indicted by a Nassau grand jury and arrested last month by the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said.

Ruggiero was extradited to New York on May 31 and arraigned Monday in Nassau County Criminal Court in Mineola on a charge of second-degree grand larceny.

Ruggiero, who was released on her own recognizance, faces a maximum sentence of 5 to 15 years in prison, if convicted.

“This defendant agreed to do work for a charity golf outing, but instead allegedly used the proceeds of that fundraiser as a personal piggybank,” Singas said in a statement. “More than $152,000 was raised for youth activities and my office will use every tool at our disposal to make sure that money is repaid.”

Messages left with Ruggiero’s attorney, Mindy Plotkin of Garden City Park, were not immediately returned.

Ruggiero is the principal of the Ruggiero Strong Family Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 charitable organization that specializes in fundraising and golf outings.

In August 2015, Ruggiero was hired by the Peconic Hockey Foundation Inc. of Wading River to host a golf outing, prosecutors said. Ruggiero collected checks, acted as a bank, managed registration and ran a silent auction, prosecutors said.

The Sept. 4, 2015, fundraiser at the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton was to support youth hockey programs and to potentially build a new hockey rink.

Ruggiero was to be paid $15,000 and was instructed to hold funds raised from the golf outing in a segregated bank account because of her charity’s tax-exempt charitable status, Singas said.

Between Aug. 28, 2015, and Jan. 20, 2016, Ruggiero received $208,303 and paid $55,552 in expenses associated with the golf outing, authorities said.

After the fundraiser, the Peconic Hockey Foundation received IRS approval for its own charitable foundation and asked Ruggiero to transfer the money from the golf outing, prosecutors said.

Instead of paying the proceeds to the youth hockey league, Singas said, Ruggiero embezzled $152,751 and spent the money on vehicles, restaurants, nail salons, hotels, movie theaters and other personal expenses.

A message left with the Peconic Hockey Foundation Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Ruggiero is due back in court on July 9.

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