Charity Volunteer For Slain NYPD Officers Embezzled $410,000 And Spent It On Dentistry, Landscaping, Barbra Streisand Tickets: Prosecutors

By: Elizabeth Keogh, Thomas Tracy and Stephen Rex Brown |

She fleeced New York’s Finest.

A greedy charity volunteer spent nearly half a million dollars donated by NYPD cops for the families of slain officers on herself - and the legal defense of her son, convicted of manslaughter in a Midtown hit-and-run, prosecutors charged Thursday.

Lorraine Shanley served as volunteer treasurer for the Survivors of the Shield from 2010 to 2017. During her tenure, she spent $410,000 in donations on personal expenses including her son’s legal bills, her grandchild’s private school tuition, dentistry, landscaping for her Staten Island home and Barbra Streisand tickets, according to a criminal complaint.

“Lorraine Shanley allegedly capitalized on tragedy and monetized people’s generosity," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. “As alleged, Shanley stole over 20% of the donations to a charity whose sole mission is to help the families of NYPD officers killed in the line of duty.”

Authorities said that during the seven years Shanley, 68, volunteered, Survivors of the Shield received about $1.9 million in donations - almost all from NYPD employees. An average of 5,500 NYPD employees donated each year, according to a release.

“If true, these allegations constitute deep violation of the trust of those who generously donate to help police families going through heartbreaking tragedy,” the NYPD said in a statement. The department does not endorse any one charity raising money for slain cops’ families over any other.

Shanley’s husband, Officer Thomas Shanley, died of a heart attack on the job in 1986. Her Twitter profile indicates that she comes from a family of police officers, attends NYPD events and regularly hobnobs with high-ranking cops. She also served on the executive board of the New York City Police Museum.

“This hurt because we trusted her,” said Survivors of the Shield President Kathleen Vigiano, who is a widow of Detective Joseph Vigiano and also a former cop. “She betrayed our trust . . . I think she should go to jail."

Vigiano, 55, whose husband died while rescuing victims at the World Trade Center on 9/11, emphasized that the charity is a legitimate organization devoted to a good cause.

Vigiano became president of the Survivors of the Shield in August. The previous board voluntarily dissolved and reached out to the Justice Department after realizing some form of fraud had occurred. The charity’s money was frozen as the IRS and federal prosecutors investigated, sources said.

“We knew something was wrong,” Vigiano said. “We hired a lawyer and froze all our hardship funds until we could figure out what exactly went wrong.”

She said she looked forward to again providing a financial boost to family members of fallen police officers.

The criminal complaint provided a breakdown of Shanley’s alleged fleecing of the charity. As treasurer she had access to the nonprofit’s credit card and bank account.

Shanley spent $29,000 on her grandson’s tuition, $32,000 on dental expenses and landscaping and $8,000 on event tickets, including $1,400 on the Streisand concert, according to court papers. She even spent $961 on parking tickets and red light camera violations, according to a complaint.

When Shanley’s son faced criminal charges she even used $63,000 of Survivors of the Shield money to cover his legal expenses, prosecutors said.

Shanley’s son Thomas Shanley is in custody for a fatal hit-and-run in Midtown in 2014. The troubled construction worker was texting on his iPhone behind the wheel of a Dodge Durango when he crashed into a pole for a bus stop that fell onto pedestrian Charity Hicks.

Thomas Shanley, who was on parole after serving three years for drug possession, abandoned his wrecked SUV and fled the scene on foot. Hicks died from her injuries weeks later.

Hicks, 45, was an activist from Detroit visiting New York for a conference. She was a founder of the Detroit People’s Water Board who fought to keep water flowing from the Great Lakes to low-income Detroit neighborhoods and campaigned for environmental and social justice.

Thomas Shanley took a plea deal in 2016 and was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He was sentenced to two to six years in prison and is locked up at Queensboro Correctional Facility in Long Island City, Queens.

Now Lorraine Shanley is charged with bank fraud and identity theft and faces a maximum of 32 years in prison if convicted. A call to her attorney was not returned. She trembled during a brief presentment before Magistrate Judge James Cott and was released on $100,000 bond.

“Oh my God, look at the cameras,” she said as she exited Manhattan Federal Court with her husband. She did not comment when asked if she wanted to apologize to the families of slain police officers or if she planned to repay the money.

Neighbors said Shanley takes pride in her elaborately landscaped home in Sunset Hill, Staten Island.

“I’m in shock, she’s the nicest person," said neighbor Rose Palacino. “I come from a police family and it’s just, it’s hard. I’ve known cops who have died in the line of duty. I can’t believe this.”

“She should’ve thought of what she did before she did it," said Palacino’s husband, Joe Palacino. “It’s always going to catch up.”

Three widows of fallen police officers formed Survivors of the Shield in 1989. The group was instrumental in passing former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s Care of Police Survivors agenda.

Prosecutors said Shanley’s scheme began to unravel in fall 2017 when a new volunteer for Survivors of the Shield started pulling tax records as part of an effort to modernize the charity’s website and record-keeping.

The group provides financial and emotional assistance to families of fallen officers throughout the state. They also distribute the Survivor of the Shield license plate, which is given out to slain cops’ families.

Former President Barbara Nugent — widow of Police Officer Kenneth Nugent, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1971 — said she was “terribly in shock” over hearing about Shanley’s arrest.

“It’s a wonderful organization,” Nugent, 85, said. “We give out scholarships and counseling to survivors — help when it’s needed most.”

Current board members of Survivors of the Shield include those left behind by some the most revered police officers in the department.

Vice President James Smith was married to Officer Moira Smith, who is credited with saving hundreds of lives before Tower 2 collapsed and killed her in 9/11 attacks. Vice President Patti McDonald is the widow of Detective Steven McDonald, who was paralyzed by a teen gunman and then became a heroic voice for peace and forgiveness.

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