Aug. 31, 2023 By Bill Parry
A program planner at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) headquarters in Long Island City was arrested on Aug. 25 and criminally charged with stealing 23 gift cards that were purchased to distribute to HIV prevention program participants.
Stephanie Hubbard, 40, of Manhattan, was the focus of a probe by the city Department of Investigation following an anonymous complaint about gift card fraud and investigated the case with the Office of Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, which is handling the prosecution.
“This defendant is accused of lining her pockets at the expense of programs dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases,” Katz said. “She, and two previously charged co-defendants will be held to account. I want to thank the Department of Investigation and the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for their work on this case.”
Hubbard was arraigned at Queens Criminal Court where she was charged with one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree — a class E felony — and official misconduct — a class A misdemeanor. Her arrest was the third during the past week involving gift card fraud at the agency.
On Aug. 22, former DOHMH Deputy Director of Fiscal Administration Mahboob Bari Khan, 63, of Manhattan and DOHMH Fiscal Analyst Lisa Burgess-Thomas, 58, of the Bronx, were both arraigned on the same charges related to gift card theft.
According to a criminal complaint, Hubbard worked in HIV Prevention, part of DOHMH’s Division of Disease Control, Bureau of Hepatitis, HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (“BHHS”). Gift cards ordered by DOHMH’s HIV Administration were distributed to HIV Prevention for the purpose of encouraging members of the public to participate in BHHS programs. DOHMH employees are not permitted to take gift cards for their personal use.
On Nov. 17, 2017, BHHS purchased 24 physical Amazon gift cards with a value of $50 each. A review of Amazon records revealed that the value of 23 of those cards, $1,150 in total, were uploaded to an Amazon account in Hubbard’s name, with a phone number and billing address matching the information in Hubbard’s DOHMH personnel file, according to the criminal complaint. The Amazon account was used for purchases between Sept. 22, 2019, and Jan. 4, 2020.
“This defendant, as charged, stole nearly two dozen Amazon gift cards that were intended for members of the public who participate in the City’s HIV-prevention programs,” DOI Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber said. “I thank DOHMH for cooperating in this investigation and the Queens district attorney for its partnership in our efforts to protect public resources so that they reach the intended recipients.”
Hubbard has worked for the agency since April 2005 and receives an annual salary of $127,682, according to the DOI.
“The Health Department will work with our colleagues at the Department of Investigation and the Queens District Attorney’s office to ensure that resources are used as intended,” DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said. “If any misuse is uncovered, those responsible will be held accountable.”
Following her arraignment in Queens Criminal Court, Hubbard was released on her own recognizance.
If convicted, Hubbard and the other defendants face up to four years in prison on the class E felony and up to a year in prison on the misdemeanor charge, according to the DOI.