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Long IslandNassau

Manhasset man sentenced in New York City pre-K fraud, feds say

A Manhasset man, charged with defrauding New York City education programs, was sentenced Thursday to 2 years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $4 million in forfeiture and restitution, officials said.

Cheon Park, 46, pleaded guilty in March to one count of mail fraud in connection with inflating compensation figures of employees and contractors and misrepresenting the work done at his company, Bilingual SEIT, which provided special education services and preschool programs for the city Department of Education, prosecutors said.

"Mr. Park accepted full responsibly for his actions which never affected the quality of the services . . . provided to the children," said his Manhattan attorney Alfredo F. Mendez. "He will serve his sentence and put this matter behind him."

Park regularly received kickbacks from those who were overpaid, according to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

He also used company funds "to pay his ex-wife and ex-sister-in-law for work they did not perform" and for tutoring services for his children, with a company employee scheduled twice a week to clean his home, according to a news release.

"Park lined his pockets with millions of dollars meant to provide important services for special-needs children," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in the release.

Park's company, which he owned and operated from at least 2005 to 2012, claimed and received around $94.5 million in federal, state and city funds, based on required certified consolidated fiscal reports and audited statements filed with the state education department, prosecutors said. Most recently, Bilingual SEIT had five locations in New York City.

Following an audit started around June 2011, the state comptroller reported that close to $1.5 million in costs Park had certified "for the two-year audit period should have been disallowed, including money paid to 26 employees whose time and attendance could not be substantiated," the release said. As a result, the city canceled classes to be provided by the company and did not renew the contract.

Park was ordered to pay $1.9 million, "the proceeds of his crime" -- which he paid last week to the U.S. Marshals Service -- as well as restitution of over $2.1 million, the release said.

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