12/05/2005 12:00AM

Former head of N.Y. fund pleads guilty to larceny


William Levin, the former chairman of the New York Capital Investment Fund and the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund, pleaded guilty on Friday in New York State Supreme Court to a felony grand larceny charge, the New York county District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, said Monday.

Levin, 83, will pay restitution of $180,000 and a fine of $25,000, according to the district attorney's office, which brought the charges, but will not serve jail time.

The statement said that Levin, who was appointed chairman of the investment fund in 1982, used its "premises and personnel to manage aspects of his businesses," and that from 2000 to 2003, he "stole" $180,000 from the fund. In addition, according to the district attorney, beginning in 1994, Levin "started approving fraudulent expenses and reimbursements" for the executive director of the fund, James DePasquale, who died this year while under investigation by the office.

"The money paid out as a result of Levin's approvals, which amounted to more than $100,000, covered dinners that had no business purpose, gasoline used for personal travel, and massively overstated mileage reimbursements," the district attorney's office said in a statement.

Levin, who has homes in New York and Florida, owns several textile businesses.

The New York Capital Investment Fund was created to hold profits from the New York Racing Association, the operator of Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. The agency then loaned the money back to NYRA to fund capital improvements at the tracks. It was disbanded earlier this year after legislation was passed creating a state oversight board responsible for monitoring NYRA's operations.

Levin, who did not receive a salary at the fund, also has resigned as the chairman of the state breeding and development fund, which oversees payments to breeders in the state. Levin was appointed chairman of the fund in 1983.

The investigation into the charges was started two years ago by the New York State Inspector General's Office and had initially focused on DePasquale. The inspector general referred the investigation to the district attorney's office, according to the statement.

New York's racing industry has been beset by scandal and controversy over the past four years. Most notably, NYRA was indicted in 2003 after 21 employees of its mutuel department pleaded guilty to various tax-related fraud charges. The indictment resulted in the appointment of a federal monitoring firm to oversee NYRA's business for 18 months during 2004 and 2005.