Monday, September 5, 2011

Natarajan Venkataram jailed for stealing $10 million from fund to identify 9/11 remains still holding on to cash

Ten years after the Sept. 11 attacks, ex-city worker Natarajan Venkataram says he’s sorry he stole millions of dollars meant for identifying the remains of trade center victims.

He’s just not sorry enough to turn over $400,000 sitting in his bank account in India.

The city has recovered $7 million of the $10 million he and an accomplice stole, but he went to court to hold onto this final portion of his ill-gotten gains.

In a phone interview from the federal prison camp at Fort Dix, N.J., Venkataram, 46, whined about jail conditions and apologized repeatedly for his crime.

Asked about the disputed cash, Venkataram said: “All the issues are still pending in the court.”

The city medical examiner’s office got millions of dollars from the feds to help identify the remains of nearly 3,000 victims.

Venkataram, then a manager dealing with the medical examiner’s computer system, and his girlfriend, Rosa Abreu, siphoned off millions via shell companies and fake contract bids.

When Venkataram learned probers were on to him, he transferred $1 million to his Indian bank accounts, prosecutors say.

Arrested in 2005, Venkataram pleaded guilty to embezzlement and money laundering. He got 15 years in jail; Abreu got six. more