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Former NYC official admits stealing 9/11 funds

  • Story Highlights
  • Natarajan R. Venkataram pleads guilty to charges including embezzlement
  • Venkataram was director of New York's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
  • Office received more than $46 million to help identify 9/11 victims
  • Venkataram steered millions of that cash to fraudulent companies
  • Next Article in U.S. »
From Sarah B. Boxer
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A former New York City official pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing millions of government dollars, some of which were intended to help identify victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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Money was intended for lab analyses of human remains and other debris collected from ground zero.

Natarajan R. Venkataram pleaded guilty to embezzlement, money laundering and conspiracy charges before the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Michael J. Garcia.

The government is hoping to sentence him to more than 20 years in prison, said Venkataram's lawyer, Alan Seidler.

Venkataram is being held in federal prison in Brooklyn, New York.

Venkataram served as a director of New York's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for 13 years.

After September 11, 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided the medical examiner's office with more than $46 million to help identify victims through forensic tests on body parts and other evidence collected in downtown Manhattan.

Along with another employee, Rosa Abreu, Venkataram steered millions of those dollars to fraudulent companies.

Abreu pleaded guilty to the same charges as Venkataram last week.

Venkataram "pled guilty because he is guilty, and he wanted to do the right thing. He feels terribly about what he did," Seidler said.

His client is "truly devastated by all of this and terribly embarrassed," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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