The owner of a Farmingdale hardware store was arrested Thursday and charged with stealing more than $40,000 from the Long Island Power Authority by submitting hundreds of fraudulent rebates, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.
Thomas Schuman, 44, of St. James, has been charged with third-degree grand larceny and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.
According to the DA’s office, Schuman owns Four Star True Value Variety Store on Main Street in Farmingdale. He began participating in LIPA’s compact fluorescent light coupon rebate program in 2009, which allows stores to offer discounts on the light bulbs from 50 cents to $3 per bulb. The buyers would be required to complete a rebate coupon for the store and submit the form to LIPA. The utility company would then reimburse the store.
In December 2011, LIPA conducted an audit into the program and discovered Schuman’s store submitted 923 fraudulent rebate coupons, resulting in payment of $22,420. During an investigation, the District Attorney said Schuman instructed his employees to fill out the vouchers and allegedly told cashiers to use a phone book to find people who lived in the area. The cashiers would complete the rebate coupons with random names in order to meet a daily quota, a news release said.
In the first fiscal quarter of 2011, Four Star True Value Variety Store submitted 66 percent more rebate coupons than all the Long Island Lowes’ stores combined, the DA said an investigation revealed.
Schuman also participated in a LIPA-sponsored advertising program which provided reimbursements for merchants that advertised the sale of the compact fluorescent bulbs. Prosecutors said Schuman submitted inflated invoices from the Long Island Pennysaver or Clipper magazine, receiving fraudulent reimbursements totaling $19,200.
“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.”
Schuman is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at First District Court in Hempstead. His attorney, F. Scott Carrigan of Garden City, could not immediately be reached for comment.