Jeffrey Bernstein learned yesterday that paying your bills with stolen money from your nonprofit organization is not only a crummy thing to do, but it will also earn you at least three years in prison.
A Manhattan court judge sentenced Bernstein, 62, to 3 1/3 to 10 years in years in prison yesterday for stealing $2.5 million from the Albert Ellis Institute, a nonprofit psychotherapy organization founded nearly 50 years ago, according the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
“We followed the money through numerous accounts, all of which led back to the defendant,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a release. “The financial well-being of nonprofits depends on earning the trust of donors to support the goals and missions of the organization. Those who violate that trust not only harm themselves, they harm the entire organization.”
Bernstein pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny on September 24. He served as the director of administration at AEI and handled the organization’s finances. Through nearly 80 unauthorized wire transfers, Bernstein funneled funds from AEI into three other businesses he ran.
The stolen money went toward personal expenses including loan repayments, payments to family members, legal and accounting fees, credit card bills, car expenses, insurance, and condo fees, according to prosecutors.
Bernstein has been ordered to repay his $2.5 million to the organization in restitution.