Pinoy community leader faces theft charges

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Dec 07 2012 04:33 PM | Updated as of Dec 08 2012 12:33 AM

NEW YORK- Family and supporters of prominent Filipino community leader in New York, Rene Ballenas came in full force to his hearing at the New York Criminal Court in Lower Manhattan Thursday morning.

Ballenas, 50, was arrested last October and was charged with burglary and third degree grand larceny or theft for allegedly taking more than $7,000 worth of items from the Children’s Cancer and Blood Foundation office in Manhattan.

The original complaint said that a worker told the police that Ballenas was said to have been seen in a video surveillance entering locked storage rooms of the charity during non-office hours.

The complaint also said that he allegedly stole iPads, shirts, bottles of wine among others.

“It’s hard for us to comment until that time when we can see exactly what it is that he is accused of, and then we’ll know how we will address those allegations and challenge them. In the meantime, we ask everyone to please continue the support we’ve received from the community for him,” Ballenas’ legal counsel, Attorney Oscar Michelen said.

Meantime, some members of the community who came to support him said that Ballenas is widely known as a big advocate for charity.

While the supporters declined to be interviewed on camera, they are planning to collect petitions to vouch for Ballenas’ good work in the community.

Even with his ongoing case, Ballenas is said to continue his charity work for the victims of Superstorm Sandy as well as for the victims of the recent typhoon “Pablo” in the Philippines.

Supporters say Ballenas is planning to proceed with his medical mission trip to Pangasinan if the court will allow him to travel to the Philippines in February.

Ballenas is due back in court on January 3 for his indictment.