An ex-church official is facing possible prison time after allegedly embezzling about $36,000 from an East Meadow house of worship, including money meant to pay for the pastor's health insurance.
Ronald Ousman, 38, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a grand larceny charge at an arraignment in Hempstead district court.
The Nassau district attorney's office said the Bayside man had served as acting treasurer at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, allegedly stealing the money in a series of cash withdrawals from church accounts from May 2014 to May 2015. Ousman surrendered to prosecutors yesterday morning to face the felony charge, which has a maximum sentence of 7 years behind bars.
His attorney, Scott Limmer of Mineola, said in court that his client had known about the investigation for three months and gave up his passport when he turned himself in. He said Ousman works in a flower shop and recently got divorced.
District Court Judge James Darcy released Ousman on his own recognizance after Assistant District Attorney Peter Mancuso didn't request bail.
The defendant ignored questions on his way out of court, and Limmer declined to comment.
"Clearly the congregation, as well as the council, are very upset by the breach of trust. On the other hand, they are not looking for vengeance," said attorney Ken Marten, who spoke for the church.
He said Ousman was part of the congregation for a decade and had served the church as a volunteer. Marten added that it was a "big red flag" when the pastor's health insurance premiums went unpaid.
"That money that was supposed to go toward the health insurance was part of the monies that were stolen," he said.
Prosecutors said they started a probe in May after church officials tipped them. Holy Trinity officials had gotten in touch with the IRS to verify tax information, but found out the agency never got some payments, the district attorney's office said.