The NYPD charged a Hempstead High School theater teacher Tuesday with grand larceny in connection with the theft of more than $140,000 worth of computers purchased by the district, authorities said.
Theresa Cucina, 55, of Long Beach, was taken into custody at the district’s administrative building on Peninsula Boulevard. Detectives with the NYPD’s Midtown South Precinct are handling Cucina’s case, authorities said.
The NYPD did not provide additional details about the investigation other than that they received a complaint Aug. 24 about the alleged theft of the computers, which were purchased for the district from Compulink, a Manhattan-based company, as well as other vendors.
“We just didn’t get payment for some shipments we made,” said Richard Damura, chief operating officer for Compulink. “We just reported it to the police.”
Hempstead Superintendent Simon Waronker confirmed the arrest Tuesday of a teacher in the district. He said the teacher has worked for the district for five years but he declined to provide the instructor’s identity.
The computers, which include tablets and laptops with a total value of $140,450, were addressed for shipment to the Hempstead school district and an unspecified address in Long Beach, according to an NYPD source. The stolen equipment was then repackaged and shipped out of Kennedy Airport to an “unknown location.” Three shipments from the vendors were made between June and August, the source said.
At midday Tuesday, NYPD officers led Cucina out a side door of the administrative building in handcuffs and into a waiting car. She didn’t say anything.
School board president Maribel Touré, who was at the administration building at the time of Cucina’s arrest, said seeing a teacher being led out in handcuffs was “really sad.”
During her time at Hempstead High School, Cucina has worked as the drama club adviser and director of the fall and spring productions, according to minutes of the Hempstead school board’s meetings.
A Newsday database based on those records showed she began work as an educator in 1996. Her salary for the 2015-16 school year was $97,476.20.
In an interview later, Touré said she could not discuss the case further because of personnel issues.
“We are expecting that everybody who’s hired by the district . . . takes responsibility with high regard, and seriously,” Touré said. “We are not expecting that somebody’s going to be doing something like this.”
With Anthony Destefano