Ex-NY School Official Charged In $1.2M Food Kickback Scam

By Dorothy Atkins (May 20, 2022, 8:57 PM EDT) -- Prosecutors have accused the former Hempstead Union Free School District food services director of conspiring with a local restaurant owner to steer lucrative public school food contracts worth $1.2 million to the restaurant in exchange for illegal kickbacks, according to an indictment unsealed in New York federal court Thursday.

In a nine-page indictment dated Tuesday, the government alleges that former public school official Sharon Gardner, 56, of Lindenhurst and Smart Starts NY Inc. owner Maria Caliendo, 57, of Elmont ran an illegal scheme in which Gardner ignored the school district's procurement procedures and awarded Caliendo's business multimillion-dollar "sole-source" school breakfast contracts...

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