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Two women indicted in Hempstead school kickback scheme

Alan Levine

Federal prosecutors indicted two women in a kickback scheme that bilked more than $1 million from the Hempstead school district on Long Island.

Sharon Gardner was the food service director for Hempstead Union Free School District. Prosecutors said she accepted more than $120,000 from Maria Caliendo, owner of a school breakfast company, in exchange for a no-bid contract for food service in 2016. Then the next year, Gardner steered the contract toward Caliendo even though there were three other less expensive bids.

According to the indictment, they set up a bank account in the name of a family member in order to conceal their scheme. Gardner allegedly withdrew about $13,000 from the account and spent the money on a vacation, car and home furnishings.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.