RED BANK: AUDIT LED TO YASSIN CHARGES

Students and teachers digging into the primary school garden funded by the Red Bank Education Foundation last month. (Red Bank Borough Schools photo. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

redbankgreen hot topicA “housekeeping” audit led to criminal charges, disclosed Monday, that former Red Bank councilman Hazim Yassin stole $7,650 from the Red Bank Borough Education Foundation, its president told redbankgreen.

Former councilman Mark Taylor serves as president of the Red Bank Borough Education Foundation. Below, Hazim Yassin on the council dais in 2019. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Yassin, 32, now a Lincroft resident, is alleged to have diverted the funds from the nonprofit over two years, according to charges filed by Acting Prosecutor Lori Linskey.

Yassin had served as treasurer of the organization, which helps support the educational needs of students at the borough’s primary and middle schools.

Yassin’s attorney, Bob Honecker, told redbankgreen his client “never intentionally diverted any funds” from the foundation and will “vigorously contest” the charges.

According to the prosecutor’s office, an investigation by the Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau was initiated earlier this year, after the RBBEF “performed a financial audit and identified a series of unauthorized withdrawals from its bank account that could not be reconciled – including four made in 2020, when the foundation was inactive due to the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Former councilman Mark Taylor, who serves as the foundation’s president, told redbankgreen the alleged diversion came to light as a result of an audit undertaken in conjunction with a change in bank accounts.

Coming off an update to its bylaws regarding procedures, the foundation undertook the audit “to make sure we crossed all our Ts and dotted all our Is,” said Taylor. He referred to it as “general housekeeping.”

In the process, the organization uncovered “suspicious transactions,” he said.

“We noticed some anomalies, which we referred to the prosecutor’s office for further investigation” earlier this year, said Taylor, an attorney who also serves on the borough’s five-member Charter Study Commission.

The missing money “is not an insignificant amount” for the foundation, Taylor said. “Every dollar that we raise is intended to benefit our local school children, so obviously we want to be operating with a full register.”

The organization is currently involved in funding an outdoor classroom/garden at the primary school, and sponsoring a mural to be painted at the Red Bank Public Library, Taylor said.

Yassin is scheduled to make his first appearance in court June 21, Honecker said.

In January, just days after the end of his sole term on council, Yassin was evicted from his Branch Avenue apartment for non-payment of rent for nearly two years.

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