A teaching assistant for a prekindergarten program in the Hempstead school district was arraigned Thursday on charges of stealing almost $1,200 in grant money meant for young students.
Sirlentor Berry, 40, of Hempstead, was charged with grand larceny, attempted grand larceny and official misconduct.
If convicted, he could serve up to 4 years in prison. He is due back in Nassau County Court on Nov. 17. "We are very eager to defend these charges," said Berry's attorney, Luigi Vigliotti of Garden City. "I believe that in the end my client will be exonerated."
Berry is accused of presenting the AMC Loews Raceway 10 theater in Westbury with a check from the school district meant to cover the attendance of prekindergarten children and accompanying adults on Jan. 24. Because of absences, the theater charged $1,199 less -- and that amount was given to Berry in cash. It was not returned to the district, according to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice's office.
Berry is alleged to have arranged for another visit to the theater on March 26, and again had the school district pay in advance for all of its prekindergarten students and staff. He then tried to obtain a $1,247 refund because of absences, but failed to do so, the district attorney's office said.
The prekindergarten program is mostly funded by public grant money, which is meant to be used for salaries, benefits, materials, supplies and approved field trips, the office said. It uncovered the case "during a wider and ongoing investigation into the district," spokesman Shams Tarek said.