Fil-Am leader nabbed for 'grand theft'

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Oct 09 2012 11:45 PM | Updated as of Oct 10 2012 11:20 PM

New York, NY - A prominent Filipino community leader in New York was arrested and charged with burglary and third degree grand larceny or theft last Monday.

NBC New York reported that Rene Ballenas, 50, was allegedly caught on surveillance video, taking items such as iPads, a fur cape, an artwork, a necklace, and bottles of wines and others from the Children’s Cancer and Blood Foundation on East 38th Street in Manhattan.

 Rene Ballenas, ABS-CBN File

Ballenas, who worked as a clerical worker at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, is accused of stealing more than $7000 worth of items. Some of those items were supposed to be auctioned off for charity, the report said.

Investigators say the surveillance video showed Ballenas going into locked rooms and storage areas that belonged to the charity when the office was closed.

Ballenas was not allowed on its premises during off hours, according to a charity spokesperson.

Although Ballenas pleaded not guilty during the arraignment, the initial NBC report said that Ballenas admitted to detectives that he had been stealing from the charity group for several months now.

In a phone conversation, Ballenas declined Balitang America’s request for an interview at this time saying he was not at liberty to answer and provide details, based on his lawyer’s advice.

Ballenas told Balitang America, that he is “facing this head on and that he is fighting this case all the way.”

Ballenas is now out on a $10,000 bail and is scheduled for a hearing in a New York criminal court on December 6.