A federal jury Tuesday sent a resounding message, overwhelmingly determining that former Rochester Housing Authority Chairman George Moses had bilked a neighborhood group and others with sometimes lavish expenses for himself and family members.
Moses' fraudulent expenses — many pilfered from a neighborhood group, North East Area Development, that he headed — totaled more than $200,000. During the trial, which began in early October, federal prosecutors portrayed the expenses as money siphoned from an impoverished neighborhood to line the pockets of a man whose job it was to better the community.
"Any dime or any penny or nickel that was used by Mr. Moses personally could've helped people in his neighborhood," Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Resnick, the lead prosecutor in the case, said after the verdict. "He had a fiduciary responsibility and a duty to help the people of his neighborhood. He breached that duty.”
The jury convicted Moses of 28 of 29 criminal counts, including fraud and lies on federal tax returns. He was only acquitted of an allegation that he fabricated an invoice for laptops for the Rochester Housing Charities, which is a subsidiary of the Rochester Housing Authority.
U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Wolford determined that Moses, who had traveled previously to Canada where he had a girlfriend, is a flight risk and order him jailed for now. A hearing has been set for Friday at which defense lawyers can propose conditions for Moses' release.
"He's now been convicted," Wolford said about her decision to have Moses taken into custody. "He's facing significant penalties."
Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they considered Moses a flight risk.
Defense lawyers Frederick Hafetz and Spencer Durland declined comment Tuesday.
The jury returned the verdict Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Rochester after it deliberated for about 13 hours.
Moses was accused of crimes connected with nonprofits in which he had leadership roles, most particularly the neighborhood association North East Area Development, or NEAD.
Prosecutors claimed that Moses used money from NEAD, paying for cruises, New York Knicks tickets, trips to Canada to visit his girlfriend, and a bevy of other expenses. Moses' defense attorneys contended that there were legitimate business reasons for the expenses, and that the NEAD board of directors did not block him from the spending.
"We're very pleased the jury saw the case the way that we saw it and asked the grand jury to indict it," Resnick said.
Resnick said the fraud-related evidence was overwhelming against Moses. Defense attorneys argued that NEAD's volunteer board of directors did not prohibit the spending and that many of the charges were legitimate.
"The jury saw it was an improper use of those funds," Resnick said. "I think it's pretty straightforward and logical, more common sense that you can't use the funds for those expenses. It doesn't have to be written anywhere. It's just common sense that you can't use the grant money that was supposed to help the low-income people of his neighborhood."
During the trial, which began with testimony on Oct. 18 and jury selection the week before, several witnesses alleged that they'd been co-conspirators with Moses in alleged criminal deeds. One was former City Council Vice President Adam McFadden, who has pleaded guilty to fraud and tax crimes and is awaiting sentencing.
McFadden alleged that Moses, when chairman of the Rochester Housing Authority, helped steer a no-bid contract to McFadden. McFadden also alleged that Moses and he conspired to steal $8,000 from the nonprofit Quad A for Kids, which McFadden headed.
McFadden has admitted to thieving more than $130,000 from Quad A, an afterschool program for underprivileged children.
At the trial's start, Moses faced 32 criminal counts, including fraud and allegations of lying on tax returns. Three charges had to be dropped during the trial as a key prosecution witness, contractor Francis Cardinell, admitted that he's made up allegations that he had provided Moses with kickbacks for jobs.
Moses' defense team said that Cardinell's ability to hoodwink the FBI and prosecutors was typical of the criminal case against Moses — charges built on government overreach and manufactured evidence, the defense lawyers maintained.
However, while Cardinell's reverse-course about his alleged kickbacks was a moment straight out of a televised legal drama, his fabrications clearly did not impact the jury's decisions with the other criminal counts.
Cardinell may be charged with perjury.
Contact Gary Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 585-258-2479. Follow him on Twitter at gcraig1.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: George Moses convicted on 28 counts of fraud in Rochester NY