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Inside job

Six indicted for bilking Mets out of $2 million

Posted: Thursday October 03, 2002 4:05 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Even with their baseball season over, the New York Mets' losing streak continues.

A trusted ex-team employee, three of his co-workers and two other suspects surrendered Thursday for allegedly stealing $2 million from the team between 1994 and 2000, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced.

Former Mets executive Russell Richardson, 46, of Hempstead, was identified as the reputed ringleader of the group. Richardson, who spent 17 years with the club, used his insider's position to illegally make $600,000, Brown said.

"There was a series of schemes involving bribes, kickbacks and other illegal payment," Brown said. The money was taken from Sterling Doubleday Enterprises, the Mets' parent company, through five separate scams, the prosecutor said.

It was the latest in a series of embarrassing off-field foibles for the Mets, from All Star catcher Mike Piazza's "I'm not gay" news conference to allegations of widespread marijuana use to the firing of manager Bobby Valentine.

The on-field effort wasn't much better, with the Mets finishing last in the NL East despite a $95 million payroll.

The Mets, after an internal audit turned up irregularities, turned the case over to the district attorney in 2000. Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said the team fully supported the decision to "vigorously prosecute" the case, but declined any additional comment.

"Since this is an ongoing criminal investigation, it inappropriate for us to discuss it any further," said Horwitz.

Richardson, the team's one-time director of technical services, faces up to 25 years in prison for alleged grand larceny, falsifying business records and other crimes.

Co-defendant Haim Shaked, 47, of Brooklyn, a vendor who did business with the Mets, faced the same possible sentence as Richardson.

According to Brown, the scams operated in a variety of ways. The simplest involved overbillling the Mets, like charging $50 for a $25 box of copy paper. The most complex involved the creation of a phony company that collected $350,000 for nonexistent computer and telephone equipment.

"It's alleged the Mets were ripped off to the tune of $2 million over 6 years," Brown said.

Four other defendants faced up to seven years on lesser charges: former Mets employees Theresa Artis, 46, of Queens; Glenn Grilli, 42, of Stony Brook; Thomas Doyle, 41, of Miller Place; and vendor Richard Joselit, 49, of Boynton Beach, Fla.

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