Fil-Am community leader heads to jail for stealing from cancer charity

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Mar 06 2013 11:19 AM | Updated as of Mar 06 2013 08:38 PM

NEW YORK – Prominent and well-loved Filipino American community leader Rene Ballenas was sentenced to serve a year in jail at the New York Criminal Court on Tuesday. He pleaded guilty to a felony charge of burglary and third degree larceny or theft.

His legal counsel Attorney Oscar Michelen said, “Today Mr. Ballenas was sentenced to serve one year in custody, which means, with what is known as good time, he should get out in about 8 months, around the first weekend of November."

The 50-year-old community leader was arrested in October last year for taking more than $7,000 worth of items from the Children’s Cancer and Blood Foundation Office in Manhattan, as reported by NBC local news.

"He acknowledged responsibility and the court sentenced him based upon his agreed upon plea bargain," Michelen said.

"He obviously expressed remorse to the judge, sorrow to the court for his lapse in judgment and we just ask everyone to remember that he had a very good exemplary life. This time will pass in eight months, and I’m sure when he’s released he will continue doing the god work that he was known for.”

After the sentencing, Ballenas was taken in custody for processing. Michelen said that Ballenas will be incarcerated locally.

"The Judge indicated that sentence will be local, meaning he’ll serve it at Riker’s Island," he said.

Family and friends who were obviously devastated by the sentence declined to comment at this time.

"I think it shows the kind of character Mr. Ballenas had, he accepted his responsibility, he’s serving his sentence and I’m sure will continue to be devoted to do good works when he is released," Michelin said.