The owner of a Farmingdale hardware store has been charged with stealing more than $40,000 from the Long Island Power Authority by submitting hundreds of fraudulent rebates for compact fluorescent light bulbs that didn’t exist and over-reporting advertising costs.
Thomas Schuman, 44, of St. James, was charged Thursday by D.A. investigators with two counts of grand larceny and seven counts of offering a false instrument for filing, said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted and is scheduled to be arraigned later Thursday in First District Court, Hempstead.
“Mr. Schuman used every trick he could think of to line his own pockets, even forcing employees to assist him in his scams,” Rice said. “He victimized every honest ratepayer on Long Island, and now he’ll have to face the consequences of his actions.”
An employee of the store who answered the phone said the store is still open for business, but that Schuman was not in Friday and not available for comment.
Schuman's lawyer, F. Scott Carrigan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to Rice: from 2009 to 2011, Schuman, the owner of Four Star True Value Variety Store on Main Street in Farmingdale, participated in LIPA’s Compact Fluorescent Light coupon rebate program. The program allows stores to offer discounts on CFLs ranging from 50 cents to $3 per bulb. Buyers would fill out a rebate coupon for the stores to submit to LIPA, and LIPA would then reimburse the store, Rice said.
In December, 2011, LIPA conducted an audit and discovered that Four Star had submitted 923 fraudulent rebate coupons and was reimbursed $22,240. An investigation by the DA’s Office revealed that Schuman instructed his employees to fill out the vouchers by instructing cashiers to use the phone book to find people who lived in the area and fill out a voucher in his or her name, even though they didn’t purchase a CFL and may never have been a customer of his store. Schuman gave the cashiers a daily quota of vouchers to fill out.
In the first quarter of 2011, the investigation revealed that Four Star was submitting about five coupons on behalf of each phantom customer, and that it submitted 66 percent more rebate coupons than all Long Island Lowe’s store combined, Rice alleges.
Schuman stole an additional $19,200 from the utility as a participant in a LIPA-sponsored advertising program that reimbursed merchants that advertised the sale of CFLs. Schuman would advertise in the Long Island Pennysaver or Clipper magazine and then submit invoices that inflated advertising costs in order to be eligible for a higher rebate.
Assistant District Attorney Vickie Curran of the Government and Consumer Frauds Bureau is prosecuting the case for the DA’s Office.