A judge sent a Rockville Centre man to prison Wednesday for embezzling more than $1 million in donations meant for a Town of Hempstead recreation program for special-needs people in a scam one victim called stealing "blood money."
Drew Morgan, 44, will spend 31/3 to 10 years behind bars. He'll also have to pay back about $1.8 million in all to two financial planning clients along with two nonprofits that benefit Camp ANCHOR in Lido Beach.
Morgan, who previously pleaded guilty to grand larceny, apologized in Nassau County Court in Mineola Wednesday. He told families with children in the ANCHOR program who packed the room that he was sorry and wanted their healing to begin.
"I betrayed their trust and caused them irreparable amounts of harm," Morgan said to Judge Philip Grella.
Morgan, the head of DKM Financial Corp. and owner of Rockstead Venture Capital, has admitted using the money for "personal expenses," which the Nassau district attorney's office said included a country club membership, dining out, and travel and home furnishings.
Prosecutors said Morgan was treasurer and a board member for the ANCHOR Building Fund and stole donations from 2008 to 2013.
The fund was set up to pay for the construction of a new recreation center, which has since opened.
Hempstead Town officials have said the municipality paid for its construction and they had no control over the building fund Morgan raided. A nonprofit runs Camp ANCHOR with the town.
The new center was named for late camp counselors Paige Malone, 19, her sister Jamie Malone, 22, and Michael Mulhall, 22. The Floral Park residents died in a 2010 car crash on the Meadowbrook State Parkway.
Neil Mulhall, Michael's father, told the judge people generously donated toward construction of the new ANCHOR building after the crash, but Morgan then stole "literally blood money" to fund a lavish lifestyle.
"While we were making funeral plans, Mr. Morgan was likely popping champagne corks to celebrate his windfall," said Mulhall, 56.
Defense attorney Gary Farrell said "palpable anger" in the courtroom was "100 percent justifiable." But in asking for leniency, he told the judge that Morgan's daughter, who has Down syndrome and attends the camp, would suffer because of her father's actions.
He said Morgan spiraled downward after bad business decisions and struggles with alcohol abuse and depression.
"He has been, in his life, a good person, and he can be again," the Manhattan lawyer added.
Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said the kind of crime Morgan committed "will not be tolerated."
"It really takes a special kind of heartless defendant to commit these egregious crimes against these defenseless people," she said outside the courtroom.
John Malloy, 73, of Baldwin, who headed the program's building fund and whose son has been a camper for decades, said Morgan "used his daughter to gain our trust and our friendship" but "justice was served" Wednesday.
Program board member Amy Makar, 69, of West Hempstead said ANCHOR families were glad the case was over.
"It was a good feeling to see him go off in handcuffs," she said of Morgan.