Beliefnet
New York, Jan. 6 - A top purchasing agent for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York was indicted along with his wife and two others on federal charges of pocketing $2 million while buying food products from lettuce to pancakes.

The indictment said the four marked up prices by as much as 138 percent on the items for more than 1,000 churches, schools and other institutions, and also required numerous vendors to pay money, supposedly as commissions, on their orders.

Vincent J. Heintz was general manager of Institutional Commodity Service from 1992 until March 2004, overseeing all aspects of the central purchasing service's day-to-day operation, said the indictment, handed up Thursday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Also named as defendants were Heintz's wife, Nanette B. Melera, the food service director, and Joseph J. DeRusso and Michael J. O'Shaughnessy, who were consultants and representatives to the service.

The defendants were expected to surrender later for an initial court appearance. Lawyers for DeRusso and O'Shaughnessy said their clients would plead not guilty. Lawyers for Heintz and Melera did not immediately return telephone messages for comment.

The indictment accused the four defendants of conspiring to defraud the not-for-profit purchasing agency and the archdiocese from mid-1996 until at least March 2004.

Charges included mail fraud, conspiracy, tax fraud conspiracy, false statements and obstruction of justice. If convicted, each defendant could face up to 20 years in prison on the mail fraud charges alone.

All four were accused of receiving more than $1.2 million from vendors supplying goods to the archdiocese. At least $250,000 of the money was paid in cash, the government said. The defendants also diverted at least $1 million to shell companies they controlled, prosecutors said.

The archdiocese cooperated in the investigation, the government said.

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said the archdiocese was notified of the investigation about two years ago and was "shocked and disappointed" by the allegations.

"We have since put in financial controls and oversight to try and prevent something like this from happening again," Zwilling said.

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