The former president of the culinary James Beard Foundation, who resigned amid allegations that hundreds of thousands of dollars of foundation money was missing, was arraigned...
NEW YORK The former president of the culinary James Beard Foundation, who resigned amid allegations that hundreds of thousands of dollars of foundation money was missing, was arraigned Monday on charges of stealing large sums for his personal use.
Leonard F. Pickell, 50, pleaded not guilty to an indictment that charges him with second-degree grand larceny stealing at least $50,000 and criminal possession of a forged instrument.
Assistant Attorney General Johanna Sullivan told Justice James Yates: “He came into our office and confessed to taking over $90,000.”
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She said Pickell may have stolen more than $1 million, which would make the crime first-degree grand larceny.
The prosecutor said Pickell wrote checks on foundation accounts to cover personal expenses. She said he stole the money by getting reimbursed on bogus receipts or by submitting multiple repayment requests for a single expense.
Pickell, of Howell Township, N.J., was returned to jail after the arraignment. Bail was set at $800,000.
He could face up to 15 years in prison on the second-degree grand larceny charge if convicted. If investigators prove he stole more than $1 million, he would face up to 25 years.
The indictment resulted from an investigation that began in July into the finances of the foundation, established in the mid-1980s in memory of James Beard, a chef and cookbook author who founded his own cooking school in New York.
Pickell resigned from the foundation Sept. 9.
The nonprofit foundation, based in New York, says it is “dedicated to the practice and appreciation of culinary arts.” It sponsors forums on food, wine and hospitality and offers scholarships to culinary arts students.
The foundation is cooperating in the investigation, a spokeswoman said.