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Mall manager who embezzled tenant checks sentenced to prison, officials say

Leon Austern, 71, was sentenced to 1 to

Leon Austern, 71, was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison Wednesday. Credit: NCDA

A former Hewlett strip mall manager is heading to prison after authorities said he embezzled more than $327,000 from his one-time employer by diverting tenant checks to secret bank accounts before spending the money on himself.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Felice Muraca on Wednesday sentenced Leon Austern, 71, of Manhattan, to 1 to 3 years in prison, according to authorities.

Prosecutors said Austern used the money he stole from shopping center owner Harbro Realty Co. between 2010 and 2012 to pay for personal expenses that included loan payments, insurance and legal fees, as well as on food, gas, household appliances and pool maintenance.

The sentence followed Austern’s guilty plea last year to a second-degree grand larceny charge, records show. Prosecutors said the judge Wednesday also ordered Austern to pay more than $163,000 in restitution.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a prepared statement Wednesday that Austern “stole from innocent business owners.”

Austern's Garden City defense attorney, William Kephart, said after Wednesday’s sentencing that his client had taken responsibility for “a business matter that went awry." He added, “It’s unfortunate it came to this.”  

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