Former New York NARAL Leader Pleads Guilty to Stealing Funds

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 24, 2011   |   3:00PM   |   New York, NY

The former head of the NARAL pro-abortion group’s New York affiliate has pleaded guilty to stealing funds from the organization and she has agreed to repay the money rather than serve any jail time. 

As the New York Daily News reports:

The ex-boss of a leading abortion rights group pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing $75,000 from the organization – using donor money to pay her high-flying lifestyle.

Kelli Conlin, who left Naral Pro-Choice of New York after two decades in January, used the political cash to cover part of a $30,000  Hamptons rental, a car service for her kids and to buy designer clothes, officials said….

Under the pre-indictment settlement… Conlin agreed to repay the money by July 22 rather than go to prison.

The rights activist faced a maximum of four years behind bars if the case had been tried and she was convicted.

Earlier this year, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance launched a criminal probe into the financial mismanagement and fraud apparently taking place at NARAL New York that resulted in the firing of its president, Kelli Conlin.

Conlin left her position after a forensics audit the pro-abortion group conducted uncovered financial problems dating back to 2008, or even earlier. She had held the post for two decades and a source close to the situation says she was fired.

The accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron conducted the audit and found numerous questionable charges on NARAL credit cards Conlin used between 2008 and 2010. The charges include $5,709 in high-end clothing purchased at Giorgio Armani and Barney’s and $17,000 for a reimbursement for a Hamptons summer rental Conlin used in 2009.

Conlin also spent $100,000 on car service between March 2008 and December 2010 to have her children taken to and picked up from a private school in New York City. The audit also found $22,000 Conlin spent on meals — sometimes with friends who had no association with her work as the head of a pro-abortion activist group.

According to the New York Post, Vance is already “actively investigating” the pro-abortion group.

There is also potential political fallout as NARAL significantly bankrolled and supported the 2010 election campaign of Attorney General  Eric Schneiderman, whose father, Irwin, sits on the New York NARAL board. Irwin Schneiderman has had a seat on the New York NARAL board for a decade and contributed $75,000 in the past several years. Conlin also supported Vance during the 2009 elections.

Schneiderman representative Danny Kanner spoke with the Post about the problems and the probe.

“Because of the nature of his father’s association with the organization, Attorney General Schneiderman will recuse himself from any investigation into the matter,” he said, adding that an independent counsel would “oversee any potential investigation or agency action in this matter.”

Meanwhile, Conlin’s lawyer, Anne C. Vladeck, would not comment to the New York Times when asked about the situation, but she said Conlin  “worked tirelessly to increase the organization’s stability and effectiveness.”

“We have not had an opportunity to see the audit,” Vladeck added. “However, Ms. Conlin has always acted in the best interest of the organization.”

NARAL has not commented on the problems but the New York chapter released a statement Tuesday saying, “No conclusions have been reached based on the information gathered thus far, and there has been no determination as to whether there was any wrongdoing that would require the notification of the legal or regulatory authorities. The preliminary report that has been obtained is in draft form and the organizations are involved in an ongoing investigation.”

The audit also found questionable transactions in which Conlin transferred large sums of money between NARAL accounts to cover bonuses for her staff and herself. The New York chapter of NARAL has a $4.5 million budget and Conlin was paid $309,000 in 2009, which includes a $90,000 bonus.

The audit was conducted in December 2010 and is a possible precursor to a more thorough examination of the financial mismanagement and abuse conducted at New York NARAL during Conlin’s tenure.

Upon hearing about the abortion scandal in New York, Kristan Hawkins, Executive Director of Students for Life commented to

“The recent mess that NARAL of New York has found itself in proves once again that the abortion industry and their affiliates are deceiving young women,” she said. “The recent audit which found massive misappropriation of funds shows just how corrupt pro-abortion groups are. They are not in it to help women, but rather for their own selfish profit.”

“The abortion business is not in it to help women, but for the profit the abortion business brings,” she added.