A Burlington man was arraigned today on charges that he stole $750,000 from a Dorchester community health center, spending the money on a lavish lifestyle that included luxury cars and a penthouse riverside apartment in Cambridge, prosecutors said.
Nzeribe McKenzie, 33, stole the money from the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center when he worked in its payroll department, according to the office of Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
McKenzie's lawyer, James E. McCall of Boston, declined to comment today, except to say that his client pleaded not guilty to all charges at his arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court.
Prosecutors said McKenzie began working at the center as a contractor in 2001 and was hired as an employee in 2008. McKenzie allegedly used his "exclusive access" to the health center's payroll firm to issue "scores of unauthorized checks" to individuals and business entities between 2003 and 2008.
Prosecutors said the checks were deposited into bank accounts that McKenzie controlled, and that he spent the money on several luxury cars and an apartment in Cambridge overlooking the Charles River.
“You have to wonder whether he could look out his window at night and see the very health center that paid for his luxury lifestyle, struggling to keep its lights on,” Conley said in a statement. “You have to wonder if that sight had any effect at all on his conscience.”
McKenzie pleaded not guilty today to five counts of larceny over $250 by continuous scheme and 13 counts of making false entries on corporate books, according to Conley's statement. He was ordered held on $7,500 cash bail, which he later posted. He is due back in court on July 11 for a pretrial hearing.
Dr. Chidi Achebe, president of the health center, praised investigators for their work on the case.
"For us, the next step is to explore all avenues to recoup the money that was unscrupulously and with malice taken away from a community that has nothing and could least afford it,” Achebe said in a statement.
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