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Bulb Buster: Store Owner Pleads Guilty

Local hardware store owner Thomas Schuman, 45, has pled guilty to falsifying records, after attempting to pilfer tens of thousands of dollars through a rebate program provided by the Long Island Power Authority. 


According to officials with the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, Schuman—the owner of the Four Star True Value Variety Store on Main Street in downtown Farmingdale—participated in LIPA’s compact fluorescent light (CFL) coupon rebate program, from 2009 to 2011. The program would allow stores to provide discounts on CFLs ranging from 50 cents to $3 per bulb. Buyers would fill out a rebate coupon for the store to submit to LIPA, and LIPA would then reimburse the store. 


Towards the end of 2011, LIPA conducted an audit and discovered that Four Star had submitted 923 fraudulent rebate coupons and was reimbursed $22,240. A subsequent investigation by the DA’s office later revealed that Schuman instructed his employees to fill out the vouchers. Investigators uncovered that Schuman would give his cashiers a daily quota of vouchers to fill and instructed them to use the phone book to find people who lived in the surrounding area and fill out a voucher in his or her name, even though they didn’t purchase a CFL from the store and may never have been a customer of Four Star at all. In the first fiscal quarter of 2011, investigators learned that Four Star was submitting approximately five coupons on behalf of each purported customer and that Four Star submitted 66 percent more rebate coupons than all of the Lowe’s hardware stores on Long Island combined. 


In addition, Schuman and Four Star were found to have stolen $19,200 from the utility as a participant in a LIPA-sponsored advertising program that reimbursed merchants that advertised the sale of CFLs. While Schuman did in fact advertise the sale of CFLs in the Long Island Pennysaver or Clipper magazine, the invoices submitted showed Schuman had inflated the actual advertising costs in order to be eligible for a higher rebate. 


On Dec. 20, Schuman pled guilty to Offering a False Instrument for Filings in the Second Degree and his corporation pled guilty to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. 


“Thomas Schuman cheated Long Island electricitiy ratepayers with his scam and this sentence will ensure that is neighbors don’t end up footing the bill for his greed,” said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “I’m grateful for the cooperation of LIPA officials to help us bring this defendant to justice.” 


Schuman will pay $35,000 up-front restitution to LIPA and was sentenced to 210 hours of community service and a conditional discharge by Judge Scott Fairgrieve on Dec. 20. He is also paying a $1,000 fine.