Arrest Made In Connection To Sale Of Hillcrest Elementary

The New York State Attorney General’s office has concluded an eighteen- month investigation into the sale of the Hillcrest Elementary School building to the Orthodox Jewish congregation Yeshiva Avir Yakov. According to a felony complaint filed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, the district sold the building for 2.66 million dollars less than its actual market value. The investigation led to knowledge that the sale was based on a falsified appraisal report, completed by Avi M. Vardi, owner of the appraisal group of Parsippany, New Jersey. According to the complaint Vardi gained 8,500 dollars on the side, from the sale, after he and unidentified individuals from his company appraised the building at 3.2 million dollar, though a Mamaroneck company, Valuation Plus, Inc., appraised the building for the district at 5.9 million dollars. Legal representation for the East Ramapo school district, Minerva & D’Agostino hired Vardi in 2010 to appraise the sale, after a board member, who has not been identified, gave the firm the appraisal group’s contact information. Vardi was arrested and arraigned Wednesday by the clarkstown justice court that charged him with grand larceny and filing a false instrument, both felonies. According to the district– they were led to believe that vardi was working as an independent contractor and when he asked, they paid him 3,500 dollars, adding to the 5,000 dollars that he received from the yeshiva. The arrest follows the controversial developments of the split between Minerva & D’Agostino with the school board for the tirade from attorney Chris Kirby in early July, and the resignation of two District Administrators, Elie Wizman and Pierre Ramsey, on Wednesday. The sale has been cancelled and Avir Yakov will be leasing the Hillcrest building, though state education commissioner john king Jr. challenged the lease.

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