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D.A.: Farmingdale Hardware Store Bilked LIPA of $40K

UPDATE: Store remains open: Owner Thomas Schuman accused of stealing cash by issuing fake rebate coupons.

The owner of a Farmingdale hardware store has been charged with stealing more than $40,000 from the Long Island Power Authority by submitting hundreds of fraudulent rebates for compact fluorescent light bulbs that didn’t exist and over-reporting advertising costs.

Thomas Schuman, 44, of St. James, was charged Thursday by D.A. investigators with two counts of grand larceny and seven counts of offering a false instrument for filing, said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted and is scheduled to be arraigned later Thursday in First District Court, Hempstead.

“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.”

An employee of the store who answered the phone said the store is still open for business, but that Schuman was not in Friday and not available for comment.

Schuman's lawyer, F. Scott Carrigan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Rice: from 2009 to 2011, Schuman, the owner of Four Star True Value Variety Store on Main Street in Farmingdale, participated in LIPA’s Compact Fluorescent Light coupon rebate program. The program allows stores to offer discounts on CFLs ranging from 50 cents to $3 per bulb. Buyers would fill out a rebate coupon for the stores to submit to LIPA, and LIPA would then reimburse the store, Rice said.

In December, 2011, LIPA conducted an audit and discovered that Four Star had submitted 923 fraudulent rebate coupons and was reimbursed $22,240. An investigation by the DA’s Office revealed that Schuman instructed his employees to fill out the vouchers by instructing cashiers to use the phone book to find people who lived in the area and fill out a voucher in his or her name, even though they didn’t purchase a CFL and may never have been a customer of his store. Schuman gave the cashiers a daily quota of vouchers to fill out.

In the first quarter of 2011, the investigation revealed that Four Star was submitting about five coupons on behalf of each phantom customer, and that it submitted 66 percent more rebate coupons than all Long Island Lowe’s store combined, Rice alleges.

Schuman stole an additional $19,200 from the utility as a participant in a LIPA-sponsored advertising program that reimbursed merchants that advertised the sale of CFLs. Schuman would advertise in the Long Island Pennysaver or Clipper magazine and then submit invoices that inflated advertising costs in order to be eligible for a higher rebate.

Assistant District Attorney Vickie Curran of the Government and Consumer Frauds Bureau is prosecuting the case for the DA’s Office.

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Trina Greca February 02, 2013 at 02:46 PM
The comment from Robert Smith lead me to believe he/she knows the entire Schuman family very well. I do not know them well, but in December at the store's family & friend's event I was introduced to Tom's parents and one of his sisters. That makes your allegations "Tom has been estranged from his sisters for many years" a lie. I also know he just purchased the store about 1 year ago again making your comment "their businesses split up years ago" another lie. Now all I take from your story is that you are just a disgruntled commentator writing useless irrelevant comments to stir the pot.
Robert Smith February 02, 2013 at 03:29 PM
There are 3 sisters of which 2 are estranged from him for many years both personally and in business.
Jessica smalls February 05, 2013 at 11:38 PM
Drove past here today place looked closed did they shut down?
Trina Greca February 07, 2013 at 02:44 PM
No, I park my car in the back lot and have walked thru the store everyday and also shopped yesterday I bought a jug of ice melt. They are open for business.
Gino wagner February 07, 2013 at 09:26 PM
Through months of going in and out, you talk to people and you understand what they are going through. I know the elderly man there. I know his misery. I know he feels trapped working there. With little to no options, he has no alternative but to work here for what he calls slave salary. I feel bad for him. But he is loyal to his employer because in all honesty, where is a elderly man going to get a job doing anything these days? The young lady that works the counter is a wonderful sweet girl. The elderly women who works there also is a sweet women and if either of them were treated wrong they would not take that from this man. I think the boy who works there is Danny. He never has nothing good to say about his employer accept its a job and I will take what I can get these days. the other charges that are being brought up from lipa are at this point not true. You are innocent until proven guilty. I know a bit about this man who owns it. Truthfully I don't like him. ( I have my reasons) but they are my reasons and he is not guilty of anything yet. And for me to stick up for a man that I do not like, is saying something. Lets not take food out of his families mouth, at least until he is guilty. I am not saying that he is innocent by no means. Anyone who would call this a good thing is needs help. If he is innocent let this not affect him or his family and especially his business. If he is guilty then don't shop there anymore because he is a crook. IRS no to far.

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