Couple allegedly steals millions from New York, then flees to India
New York (CNN) — A couple once celebrated for their business savvy in the tech world are suspected of fleeing to India after allegedly defrauding the city of New York of at least $400 million, prosecutors said.
Reddy and Padma Allen were indicted in absentia Monday in a federal court in New York in what prosecutors described as a “massive and elaborate scheme” to steal taxpayer dollars, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Also on Monday, Carl Bell, a chief engineer for Science Applications International Corp., considered one of the primary contractors accused in the scandal, pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and accepting millions of dollars in bribes.
The three are the latest in a string of people indicated for their alleged role in the scheme. Eight other people have been indicted.
“The corruption on the CityTime project was epic in duration, magnitude and scope,” Bharara said.
The CityTime project is a New York City initiative meant to modernize a public payroll system for its municipal employees. It has been plagued by cost overruns and delays since it began in 1998.
Originally budgeted at $63 million, the still incomplete project has run up a bill of more than $600 million, according to the federal indictment.
Most of that excess is tainted with kickbacks and fraud, Bharara said.
Prosecutors say the couple ran a technology company, TechnoDyne, that systemically overbilled and intentionally caused delays in an effort to elicit additional funding.
The pair also created shell companies, drawing additional subcontractor dollars and depositing the funds into bank accounts in India.
Attempts to contact the Allens were unsuccessful.
Between 2003 and 2010, at least $400 million of the $600 million spent on the project had been paid to TechnoDyne, according to the indictment.
“The individuals primarily responsible for the project collaborated in an effort to overbill and otherwise defraud the city by exploiting their authority and influence,” the indictment says.
Padma Allen, 43, was recognized in 2010 as one of Ernst & Young’s entrepreneurs of the year in New Jersey as well as one of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business by NJBIZ newspaper.
In a profile of her printed in IndUS Business Journal in June 2010, she noted the challenge of working on government projects.
“It is not easy,” she told the magazine. “It is a lot of paperwork and you really have to go by the book. … But the payoff is there.”
Prosecutors say the couple — who are American citizens — are currently in their native India.