In September 2015, a privately held radio broadcasting company with three FMs on the eastern end of New York’s Long Island welcomed a new GM. It was a very well-known woman who had served as General Sales Manager of WFAN-AM in New York City from January 2006-August 2014 and, from October 2000 through the end of 2005 was VP/GM of Univision’s WADO-AM, WCAA-FM & WZAA-FM in New York.
Before that, this veteran Gotham sales pro was GSM of WAXQ-FM “Q104.3” in New York.
Now, she could be heading to prison for a fraud scheme conducted during her 28 months at Long Island Radio Broadcasting. Its properties are comprised of Top 40 WBEA-FM 101.7, Adult Contemporary WBAZ-FM 102.5 and heritage Adult Alternative WEHM-FM at 92.9 and 96.9 MHz.
Stephanie McNamara Bitis, who married in August 1997 and has a public Facebook page devoted to her two children, presently serves as VP/Sales of Dan’s Papers, a Schneps Media local marketing company and newspaper publisher serving the Hamptons and East End communities in Suffolk County, N.Y.
That could soon change, as McNamara Bitis on Monday presented United States District Judge Gary Brown a guilty plea to “felony access device fraud.” This was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday (11/17).
McNamara Bitis is represented by Thomas Kenniff of Raiser & Kenniff, frequently seen on television as a legal analyst. She could serve between 12 to 18 months in prison.
Here’s why: The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York were brought in after an attorney was hired to look into credit card fraud triggered by “a suspicious wire transfer” detected by the owner of Long Island Radio Broadcasting, Lauren Stone.
This led Stone to review LIRB’s American Express statements for the preceding six months. That’s when troubles escalated for LIRB and for McNamara Bitis, as Stone noticed several charges that appeared fraudulent.
With outside legal help brought on to take a closer look at LIRB’s books, it was determined that Bitis had placed “hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal charges on LIRB’s corporate American Express card.”
According to Stone, as reported in the Patch newspaper’s Southampton, N.Y., edition, these charges included a family vacation to Aruba, personal visits to the orthodontist, boat maintenance and boat fuel and tax services for delinquent personal income tax payments.
Several marina photos appear on McNamara Bitis’ Facebook page.
Stone believes McNamara Bitis concealed the fraud by submitting falsified documents to LIRB’s accountant. In fact, the radio industry veteran allegedly created fraudulent American Express statements by removing vendors such as her orthodontist to hide the personal charges, Stone adds.
John Marzulli, a DOJ representative, could not confirm the personal charges as they are not part of the public proceding, he told the Patch.
The charges against McNamara Bitis were presented in October. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 26, 2021.
Kenniff will seek an order from the court that would see McNamara Bitis avoid any jail time.
Speaking to the Patch, he said, “Ms. Bitis worked extremely hard at managing the station and turning it around from the situation she found it in when she was employed. Disputes arose regarding the personal versus business nature of expenses on her corporate American Express card. We dispute that many of those charges were personal as opposed to business.”
The difference in dollars between the two parties is substantial. Kenniff says his client pleaded guilty to a charge that involves theft of less than $1,000 in a given year.
As Stone sees it, the theft is closer to $250,000. Kenniff says there is “ample documentation” this is not true of McNamara Bitis.
In court, McNamara Bitis read the following statement:
“I made efforts to disguise the true and unlawful nature of these expenditures by misrepresenting their personal nature on corporate accounting records and by making the necessary minimum monthly payment on my corporate American Express card so my fraud would not be discovered by the station owner. My actions were intended to, among other things, disguise the true unlawful nature of these withdrawals.”