‘Scam’ by Long Island Mega winners
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January 7, 2010 | 5:00am
The Long Island couple who won a $162 million Mega Millions jackpot will today receive $1 million less of their winnings, the million bucks being put aside to pay back the public for a scam they ran while operating homeless shelters, sources said.
A lawyer for Suffolk County got a court order last night – after officials went to a judge to get back the money they say William and Mary Morrison, of Miller Place, took under false pretenses in 2000, officials said.
Suffolk County Attorney Christine Malafi “received an order from Supreme Court to put aside $1 million in escrow from their winnings,’’ said Suffolk Department of Social Services commissioner Gregory J. Blass.
Blass said the Morrisons should receive their money today at a 2 p.m. press conference in garden City – “but it will be $1 million less.
“We know this has made the Morrisons cranky,’’ said Blass, in an ironic tone “but having $1 million less is a sacrifice they can endure.’’ After taxes and deductions the couple should net more than $60 million.
Blass said the Morrison’s lawyer Michael Solomon did not oppose the court order. He could not be reached for comment.
The county yesterday scrambled to recover funds meant for the homeless after the Morrisons yesterday revealed their identities and authorities realized the couple – who are set today to receive their prize money – were the same couple who owed more than $950,000.
The local government had sought a temporary restraining order from Suffolk Supreme Court Justice William Rebolini in an unscheduled emergency session at almost 5 p.m. yesterday but Rebolini did not rule on the motion last night.
Instead, it was ordered that the winning couple would put aside almost $1 million in an interest-bearing escrow account while the dispute proceeds in court.
Under the agreement, the Morrisons should receive the balance of their winnings later today at a press conference in garden City, the sources said. The Morrisons hid their identity for two weeks and yesterday angrily denied the scam charges.
But Suffolk Comptroller Joesph Sawicki said an audit proved the two ripped off the taxpayers for more than $612,000 in 2000 at their non-profit homeless shelters by handing out improper bonuses to themselves and others.
With penalties and interest, their bill now exceeds $900,000.
Sawicki said the Morrisons also bought big-screen TVs with public money, paid rent to themselves while simultaneously charging the county, and billed taxpayers for employee retirement benefits but pocketed the money.
The county won a judgment against them a year ago, but they managed to avoid paying up.
“It’s a lie! It’s a lie!” Richard Morrison, 59, yelled outside his Miller Place home yesterday, where he ranted at the press as his wife cried.
“They stole from us,” he shouted, referring to the county’s shut-down of their nine shelters.
“We’re good people and we did no wrong,” said his 57-year-old wife. “We are for the people.”
Their lawyer, Michael Solomon, was furious at Suffolk officials:
“In the moment of joy and happiness [they] had the audacity and the nerve to call me and announce they were trying to collect the money.
“Shame on the county. My clients stand for the rights of We, The People. The nerve of this county to call today and rain on their parade.”
Sawicki said his audit, his subsequent court win and the couple’s failed appeals proved that they were defrauding the county.
The Morrisons, who have several children, ran LoveM Sheltering Inc.
Their lawyer said they have been struggling financially in recent years and were close to bankruptcy.
Sawicki had referred the case to law enforcement, but sources said the district attorney did not have enough evidence to make a case.
Soloman insisted his clients are not responsible for the money and only the corporation that ran the now closed shelters can be held accountable.
The Long Island couple who won a $162 million Mega Millions jackpot will today receive $1 million less of their winnings, the million bucks being put aside to…