Trial has been set for May 28 for two men accused of stealing more than $3.4 million from the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds. Rick Rubano, the benefit plan’s former co-head of information technology, was indicted nearly two years ago for receiving kickbacks from Shivanand Maharaj and other unnamed co-conspirators after approving millions of dollars in fake invoices for IT work that was never performed. The scheme allegedly went on from 2009-15, when Fund officials say they uncovered the theft and alerted authorities.
Following their arrests on January 19, 2017, the men were released on bond pending trial. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were brought by a grand jury and obtained by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Rubano and Maharaj originally were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, but a superseding indictment in October charged Rubano with four counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, while Maharaj was charged with one count of each. Four of the new counts involve companies run by unnamed co-conspirators other than Maharaj.
According to the superseding indictment (read it here), Rubano, Maharaj “and their co-conspirators devised a scheme for Rubano to accept kickbacks from Maharaj and others” for referral of IT work “that was never performed” by companies identified as Maharaj Ltd., Sytrex LLC, and Z Tech Solutions. Rubano then allegedly submitted false invoices, which were paid by the Funds. Rubano and other unnamed co-conspirators, without Maharaj’s involvement, allegedly were involved in a similar scheme in which Rubano is also accused of accepting kickbacks for IT work that was never performed by two other companies identified as CVJ Consulting and GE Tech Consultants.
The case is almost identical to that of Nader Karimi, the former chief technology officer at the SAG Pension and Health Plans, who was involved in a similar fake invoice kick-back scheme that defrauded the SAG Plans out of more than $2.5 million. In a plea agreement in 2016, Karimi was sentenced to five years’ probation for filing a false income tax return in which he failed to report more than $700,000 in kickbacks he received from contractors he hired to upgrade the Plans’ computer system.
Attorneys for Rubano and Maharaj did not return calls for comment.