Volume 74, Number 32 | December 15 - 21, 2004

Police Blotter

Ex-Beard boss in pickle
Leonard F. Pickell, Jr., who resigned as president of the James Beard Foundation in September after being accused of mishandling funds, was indicted last week on second-degree grand larceny charges of stealing more than $50,000 from the Village-based culinary organization.

A spokesman for the New York State attorney general’s office said on Mon., Dec. 13, that the investigation is continuing into Pickell’s use of funds of the foundation. The Beard Foundation was named for the late chef and food authority, who lived and taught from his brownstone home at 167 W. 12th St.

Pickell, a resident of Howell, N.J., was freed on $800,000 bail on Monday. His lawyer, William F. Dowd, said the defendant had committed no crime and the expense accounts he was charged with forging were all legitimate and approved by the foundation directors. Pickell became president of the foundation, an unpaid position, in 1994.

The attorney general’s office said on Monday that Pickell could be charged later with first-degree grand larceny charges of stealing more than $1 million from the James Beard Foundation. The investigation involves checks that Pickell wrote on foundation accounts to cover personal credit card debt, money taken from petty cash and information entered for expense reimbursement, according to the attorney general’s office.

Pickell resigned after the foundation board of trustees said an audit had revealed the misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

James Beard, who died in 1985 at the age of 81, was the most widely respected food authority of his generation. He wrote, taught and hosted elaborate dinners for restaurant professionals at his W. 12th St. home. After his death, Julia Childs was a leader in convincing food experts to continue Beard’s work in his home. The foundation makes coveted annual awards in May and announces them at gala dinners in Beard’s home.

Identity theft rising
The incidence of identity theft has become an increasing problem in the Village, according to Detective Mike Singer, community affairs officers of the Sixth Precinct. Identity thieves get access to victims’ Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers and use the information to raid bank accounts and run up huge bills. Victims have even been arrested for crimes committed by suspects who obtained personal information, Singer said.

To reduce the chances of identity theft, residents should promptly retrieve their mail and shred documents with personal data. Unused credit cards should be cancelled. Passwords should not be written on credit cards, bank or telephone accounts. Avoid giving Social Security numbers unless absolutely necessary. Obtain a credit report and check for credit accounts opened in your name. Use complex passwords; secure computer virus protection and use privacy programs to reduce the chance of identity theft.

Persons who fear they are victims should put a “fraud alert” on credit cards with one of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax at 800-525-6285; Experian at 888-397-3742 or Trans Union at 800-680-7289.

Victims should also close accounts that may have been compromised and should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 877-IDTHEFT.

Albert Amateau

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