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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information:
June 14, 2006

Office of The Attorney General
- Zulima V. Farber, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Gregory A. Paw, Director

 

Peter Aseltine
609-292-4791

 

Newark Daycare Operators Charged with Theft of State Funds

TRENTON – Attorney General Zulima V. Farber and Division of Criminal Justice Director Gregory A. Paw announced that the New Africa Day Care Center, its executive director, its manager and a board member have been indicted on theft and other charges for allegedly diverting state funding from the day care center for personal use.

According to Director Paw, a nine-count indictment was returned today by a state grand jury against New Africa Day Care Center Inc., formerly located at 372 South Orange Ave., Newark; its executive director, Muslimah Suluki, 58, of College Park, Ga.; her son, Robert Parish, 42, of Neptune, who was manager of New Africa; and her ex-husband, Mahdi Suluki, 64, of East Orange, who was a consultant and board member of New Africa.

The state grand jury indictment alleges that between January 2001 and March 2004, when New Africa closed, the defendants took more than $200,000 in state funds that were dedicated for day care and preschool programs and used them for personal expenditures, including , among other things, purchases of two Jaguars for Muslimah and Mahdi Suluki, and vacations in Chicago and Hyannis Port, Mass.

“We allege that these defendants stole state funds that were intended to help young children in disadvantaged school districts,” said Attorney General Farber. “They violated the law and they violated the trust that the state and their community placed in them.”

“These defendants allegedly were living in high style with funds that should have been used for preschool and day care programs,” said Director Paw. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute this type of abuse to the full extent of the law.”

In addition to federal funds, New Africa received Abbott pre-school funding from the New Jersey Department of Education and day care funding from the state Department of Human Services. New Africa, which typically had an enrollment of about 45 children, received more than $1.8 million in public funding during the years it operated.

Attorney General Farber noted that the Department of Education reported the suspected criminal activity to the Division of Criminal Justice when DOE officials discovered questionable expenditures. The DOE provided administrative resources and investigative assistance to the Division of Criminal Justice throughout the investigation.

“I am gratified that Attorney General Farber and Director Paw share DOE’s long-held concerns about the need to ensure that Abbott preschool vendors who rip off the system are brought to justice,” said acting Commissioner of Education Lucille E. Davy.

“For the past four years, DOE has been working to improve the quality of our Abbott preschool program, provide better state and district oversight and increase the level of fiscal accountability to which we hold the vendors. With this indictment today, the Division of Criminal Justice and DOE are sending a very clear message that people who line their pockets with state preschool money will be identified and punished,” she said.

According to Director Paw, an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice - Special Prosecutions Bureau revealed that Muslimah Suluki and Parrish allegedly diverted more than $75,000 in funding from the non-profit New Africa Day Care Center to a for-profit day care center they ran in Neptune called Aziz Learning Center, from which they withdrew profits.

The indictment, handed up to Superior Court Judge Maria Marinari Sypek in Mercer County, charges the day care center and the three individual defendants with theft by failure to make a required disposition of property, a second-degree crime, and charges each individual defendant with misconduct by a corporate official, a second-degree crime. In addition, it charges each individual defendant with one or more counts of failure to file a state income tax return, a third-degree crime: Muslimah Suluki 2001, 2002 and 2003; Parrish in 2002 and 2003; and Mahdi Suluki in 2003. Finally, it charges Mahdi Suluki with theft by deception, a third-degree crime, for allegedly soliciting a donation of $4,785 from a Newark business for New Africa after the day care center went out of business and depositing it into a bank account he controlled.

Crimes of the second degree carry sentences of up to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000, while crimes of the third degree carry sentences of up to 5 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Deputy Attorney General Susan Kase presented this matter to the state grand jury. The investigation was conducted by State Investigators Wayne Cummings and Lee Bailey for the Division of Criminal Justice - Special Prosecutions Bureau and Tax Investigator Bruce Stuck of the New Jersey Division of Taxation - Office of Criminal Investigation.

>> New Africa Day Care Center Indictment (284k pdf) plug-in

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