The former PS 29 PTA treasurer who swiped more than $80,000 from school parents but stayed out of jail after promising to pay it back now says she’d rather go to prison than make restitution.
“If the school thinks they can get the money [I took] they’re wrong,” the confessed embezzler Providence Hogan said outside of court on Monday in her first interview since her arrest. “I might as well go to jail for as long as possible. That would be nothing to what I’m enduring now. [To me] this ordeal has been jail.”
Hogan was nabbed in March for siphoning funds from the Henry Street school’s PTA treasury between 2008 and 2010.
As treasurer, she had unfettered access to the PTA’s checkbook and has admitted to cutting checks to herself ranging from $6,000 to $52,000, spending the funds on fertility treatments and the rent on her home and the $5,000-per-month lease on Providence Day Spa, her Atlantic Avenue business.
DA Charles Hynes allowed Hogan to avoid prison with this sweetheart deal: no jail if she paid back everything she stole. But Hogan has yet to come up with the first payment of $40,000, killing the deal and leading to the likelihood that she will spend some serious time in detention.
Hogan claims she doesn’t have the means to return the money. She came to court on Monday hoping to pay $30,000 that she has on hand, and hammer out a new agreement requiring her to make quarterly payments of $3,000 until the balance — plus interest — is zero, but Judge Suzanne Mondo shot down the deal, claiming it would take more than four years to pay everything off.
“We need to work for the best interest of the school — and waiting four years is not going to do that,” Mondo said.
Assistant District Attorney Kevin James argued that Hogan’s four-year payment plan was especially unreasonable, given that she apparently hasn’t taken any steps to cut back on her tony Cobble Hill lifestyle.
“She continues to live in a high-priced apartment and runs a business in a premium location,” James said. “She continues to meet the same standard of living she had four years ago and she hasn’t changed that standard of living. She has resources to pay the money back if she made the effort.”
PS 29 PTA Vice President Stephanie Manske also found Hogan’s offer unacceptable.
“The full amount of the money should be paid as soon as possible,” Manske said.
Hogan’s attorney Stephen Flamhaft claims that his client is just scraping by — and wouldn’t be able pay for his counsel if she goes to trial. Following Monday’s court hearing, Flamhaft filed an application to be removed from the case because Hogan can no longer pay his fees.
But attorney fees are the least of Hogan’s concerns: she also owes more than $44,000 in taxes and more than $40,000 in back rent to her landlord. During a civil court hearing last month, Hogan agreed to pay $16,000 of her back rent and the remainder within two years.
Hogan says she has no idea how she’s going to pay all of her debtors back.
“When I told my daughter what I did, she said, ‘You made a mistake, you can fix it,’ ” Hogan told reporters on Monday. “I’m trying to show her that I can fix this, but there’s no fixing this and I don’t know what I can do.”
Mondo ordered everyone back to court on Nov. 1 to set a date for Hogan’s criminal trial.
Hogan is facing five to 15 years in prison, although defendants in these cases usually get less time.
In 2006, for example, Frank Tassone, the superintendent of the school district in the Long Island town of Roslyn, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for taking $11.2 million — more than 130 times what Hogan stole.
Yet if Hogan is thinking she can skirt her debt by going to prison, she’s wrong: at sentencing, Mondo will most likely demand Hogan pay back PS 29 once she gets out of jail, a law enforcement source explained.
“Restitution is almost always included,” the law enforcement source said.